Lure of the Land
A fresh crop of gentleman (and woman) farmers with a shared passion for connecting with the land is sprouting up around Connecticut
≈ MAYWOOD FARM ≈
LAND OF PLENTY The quest to be a good steward of the land and preserve the agricultural roots of the area prompted the 1980s purchase of acreage adjacent to this NYC financier’s weekend getaway. And property manager Greg Bollard makes that his priority in every project at the farm. “We regularly employ biorational controls encouraging nature’s predators to live near what we grow. We even use beneficial insects in our greenhouse for our crop management,” he explains. “We try to coexist with as many beneficial things in nature as possible to get to our end product [from honey and maple syrup to peaches and wine].” Produce is treated with all-organic pesticides, and Greg follows many NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association)-approved methodologies. Ever the good neighbor, Maywood participates in the “Plow to Plate” initiative at New Milford Hospital, which sources locally whenever possible. Much of the 1,000-acre property is woodlands, which provide lumber for barrels (made by a Pennsylvania cooperage) for the wine. Nothing is sold on site here; however, this gentleman farmer also owns the Bridgewater Village Store, where you’ll find everything made or harvested at Maywood Farm, except the wine. You’ll have to leave town to buy that, since Bridgewater is a dry town.
≈ GREYLEDGE FARM ≈
A FAMILY AFFAIR Family and friends seemed to line up when Libby and Terry Fitzgerald decided to raise Black Angus beef in the pasture land adjacent to their 18th-century farmhouse. “We started with 10 cows; now we have 300,” says Libby. “People are more concerned these days about what they feed their children.” When the Fitzgeralds bought Greyledge Farm in 1993, they got involved in land preservation in Litchfield County, where there’s a big movement to keep farms open and working. But a desire to produce healthy food and raise animals in a humane, healthy and sustainable way is what prompted them to start raising cattle. Splitting their time between Roxbury and New York City (Terry is in investment management there), they oversee farming operations at Greyledge, where they also raise pork and poultry in an “organic and humane” manner. And it is truly a family affair: Their sons (ages 17, 15 and 8) work on the farm every summer—caring for the animals, performing land maintenance and working at the farm stand. As for that commitment to land preservation: With so many animals, they now lease additional land from local land trusts (Roxbury Land Trust and the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust) to accommodate the cows and to farm hay.
≈ RED BEE APIARY ≈
LA DOLCE VITA “Honey sommelier” and beekeeper Marina Marchese knows something about the sweet life. This former product designer and graduate of The School of Visual Arts in New York City discovered her true calling 11 years ago when she fell in love with bees while touring a neighbor’s beehives. Turning her back on the corporate world, Marina created a buzz in Weston when she started harvesting her own artisanal honey. While working out of several red cottages (the former home of prima ballerina and author Gelsey Kirkland), the queen bee wrote a book on the subject (Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper) and now sells honey, Rossape (Italian for “red bee”) honey-based beauty products, encaustic paintings and beeswax candles. Things have really taken off recently. “I’ve seen a lot more interest in honey due to the green movement and people paying attention to where their food comes from,” says Marina. “They’re looking at honey in a different way—not just as a condiment, but as an agricultural product. It’s an exciting time to be associated with food and farms.” Newest endeavor: honey tastings at the apiary. This summer look for more “Talk, Tour and Taste” events (initiated by bloggers at fairfieldgreenfoodguide.com and ctbites.com, who last year promised to fill the seats…and then did).
≈ ARETHUSA FARM ≈
LADIES FIRST The sign in the milking barn states: “Every cow in this barn is a lady; please treat her as such.” These well-heeled ladies are known for their “high-quality natural milk.” And once you know who owns the place, you’ll want to spend the day in their shoes…well, maybe their owners’ shoes, that is. George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis (president and vice-president, respectively, of Manolo Blahnik, USA, in New York City) moonlight as gentleman farmers at Arethusa Farm, adjacent to their 18th-century weekend home in Litchfield. Clearly, cow comfort comes first here. “We pay close attention to every animal, so we can manage their development. This is done by providing our cows with excellent care, a safe and comfortable environment, and an excellent nutrition program,” notes Tony. The demand for quality continues at the new Arethusa Farm Creamery in Bantam: “We are exclusively using our milk in cheeses, yogurt and ice cream,” says farm manager Terri Packard. For the creamery’s design and creation, “I worked very closely with my dairy manager and cheese maker Chris Casiello on selecting all of our state-of-the-art equipment, as well as developing our line of products. Our creamery is a full-fledged dairy plant. We also have a full cheese-making facility on the second floor where we can make and age cheese,” says Tony. “In the retail space [coming this summer], we will carry all of our dairy products: milk, butter, eggs and yogurt.” In addition, Tony promises they will introduce some unique products from Europe.