The weather was iffy as volunteers set up at the Morehouse Park pavilion on the Samuel Staples Elementary School campus Saturday morning. But the skies cleared in time for an estimated 300 arriving families to enjoy the 12th annual Citizens for Easton Farm Tour.
Before setting off on self-guided tours of the participating farms and historical sites, many families lingered to watch the fun and games and sip the lemonade that Joel Silkoff and his Easton Community Center staff had arranged for the younger set. Families also enjoyed snapping photos of their little ones atop the Haller family’s vintage tractor and beside the hay bales provided by Pond View Farm.
Master gardener Carol Hamilton and master composter Alpheus “Alph” Winter were on hand to answer questions and do demonstrations for more than 50 curious visitors. Members of the Easton Garden Club treated 80 young people to mini-lessons on how to grow sunflowers, and each received a potted sunflower to grow at home. The seedlings were donated by Sal Gilbertie. To help beat the heat, Adrienne Burke, owner of Greiser’s Coffee and Market, donated watermelon wedges.
There was a free prize drawing and the lucky winners received gift certificates for farm goodies and one winner, a hand-blown glass heart paperweight created and donated by Jason Curtis.
Brittany Conover, who manages Shaggy Coos Farm said, “It was so great to see so many new and old faces and share our passion for agriculture. We love working with other local businesses and had a great time with Veracious Brewery. Looking forward to future farm tours!”
The honey at the Golden Pond Apiary, including mead for the grownups, went fast. Owner Howland Blackiston engaged in conversations with the many visitors who came for tastings and a chance to see his bees in action.
The Caprese salad sandwiches were a big favorite at Sherwood Farm: heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil on country bread with a splash of olive oil.
The Farm Tour is hosted every year by Citizens for Easton, an organization devoted to local preservation and conservation efforts and committed to promoting agricultural and farm-friendly activities.
Please join us in the main conference room at the Easton Public Library on Morehouse Road in Easton on Sunday, October 27th at 4:00 PM for a presentation by Ed Hynes on the 1777 Raid on Danbury and the subsequent Battle of Ridgefield. April of 1777 saw the only British forces pass through what is today’s Easton on their way to capture the Continental Armies storehouses in Danbury. Learn about the march and the confrontations between the opposing forces. Admission is free, however donations to the Historical Society of Easton are most appreciated
This year’s celebration of Easton’s farms will take place on Saturday, August 10, from 10am to 2pm.The self-guided tour of Easton farms will begin at Samuel Staples Elementary School Pavilion, 515 Morehouse Road, Easton, Connecticut, to receive a map – the map serves as your event pass, which lists all participating farms, and activity locations.
The farm tour is free, but you need the map to obtain entrance to certain events and be eligible to receive free goodies.
At the Pavilion we will have food trucks, a field for games orchestrated by our very own Joel from the ECC, Dunk a Cop, Master Gardeners, Master Composters, a free prize drawing which includes many donations from Easton’s farms and businesses. There will also be representatives from the Pollinator Pathway Project, who will provide informational materials regarding the pathway from the Hudson to the Housatonic and how to have your property become a part of it!
The day will include many family-oriented activities including tastings, Easton Garden Club and Easton Historical Society events, antique farm tool exhibits, and games. Families can visit a petting zoo and tour greenhouses. Easton Garden Club volunteers will provide lessons and fun for children. Everyone will be able to sample Easton grown and harvested veggies and fresh fruits and learn about beekeeping, gardening and composting. Throughout the day there will be food and entertainment and old-time fun and games. Opportunities to learn about “growing your own” and composting will be at the Master Gardener and Master Composter booths.
The Adams Schoolhouse will be open from 10-2 with information on the history of the 1850 schoolhouse and early American schooling in Easton’s farming community. On display will be a 1963- 35-star flag from the HSE flag collection. The Bradley-Hubbell Barn will also be open from 10-2, with Harry Audley’s farm tool collection; hands on demonstrations of several tools will be available.
“Mabel”, Dick Grieser’s 1953 Allis-Chalmers tractor, was repainted in 2017 as a HSE project. Mabel sits at the intersection of Center Road and Route 136, a reminder to all of our farming heritage.
Citizens for Easton, is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of Easton’s land, air, water and rural character. For more information check out: www.citizensforeaston.org
With 50 mostly small- and family-run farms within its town limits, few Connecticut towns have preserved farmland as assiduously as Easton. And without sacrificing its status as an out-of-the-way oasis amid the sprawl of suburbia, Easton now wants to put itself on the map.
Of note, the town is now actively seeking a designation as Connecticut’s Christmas Tree Capital, with attendant signage on the Merritt Parkway. Recently, Citizens for Easton — a nonprofit group that works to preserve the town’s small town characteristics — invited residents, gardening enthusiasts, budding growers and other interested observers to an event called Meet Easton’s Farmers.
The well-attended meeting provided an overview of agriculture in Easton, the challenges faced by small farmers today and the town’s potential as an agri-tourism hub.
The town’s preservation measures helped retain large tracts of open space and largely rural ambiance. Silverman’s Farm evolved from a cider mill and truck farm founded in the early 1920s into a popular destination for day-trippers from throughout the tri-state region.
“In the 1980s a lot of farms — including us — became pick-your-own places,” said Irv Silverman, the youngest son of founders Ben and Rose Silverman,who now runs the family farm.“Little kids who visit have never seen fruit growing on a tree, so visits to farms like ours are educational for today’s youngsters.”
At the much newer Shaggy Coos Farm nearby, Tim and Bernadette Brady raise beef cattle, pigs, and turkeys, and board horses. Two years ago, the couple purchased two Holstein dairy cows and began producing natural milk.
“Natural milk tastes nothing like what you buy in a supermarket,” Brady noted. To demonstrate, he brought a container to give out samples of the farm’s chocolate milk. The Bradys spent days taste-testing and fine tuning the perfect combination of milk and cocoa.
The biggest hurdle the Bradys face is the lack of a USDA-certified slaughterhouse in Connecticut. This means producers such as the Bradys must bring livestock for slaughter to New York or Massachusetts.
Sal Gilbertie, owner of Gilbertie Herb Garden in Easton, urged those interested in agriculture to choose a product “niche.” His is a third-generation greenhouse that began as a producer of cut flowers, later diversified into potted plants and arrived at its current specialty — herbs — at a time when that market was in its infancy.
“We were the only game in town when it came to herbs,” said Gilbertie. More recently, Gilbertie has diversified yet again. This time, he is specializing in micro- , petite-, and baby-greens, capitalizing on their newfound popularity and reputation for packing a nutritional punch.
“The smaller the green, the more nutritious and flavorful it is,” said Gilbertie.
Howland Blackiston raises a rather unusual crop: bees. He has been a lifelong bee enthusiast but pursued beekeeping only after moving to Easton in the 1970s. He’s the author of both “Beekeeping for Dummies” and “Building Hives for Dummies,” and created a website in 1998 devoted to backyard beekeeping.
Bees play a vital role in the pollination of food crops and have suffered of late from a well-publicized syndrome known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). “We don’t know for sure what causes CCD but some very smart people are working on it,” Blackiston noted.
Possible culprits include viruses, parasites, mites and certain pesticides. “I urge everyone to take a very good look at what you put on your plants,” Blackiston said. In particular, he urged gardeners to eschew a type of widely available pesticide known as neonicotinoids. They are toxic to bees and are banned in some European countries.
The gathering also heard from Lori Cochran-Dougall, a board member of the Fairfield County Farm Bureau. Cochran-Dougall began a program that teaches women in veterans’ rehabilitation how to cook with the assistance of award-winning farm-to-table chefs. She pointed out that cooking skills help people to be both more self-sufficient and to eat healthier diets.
Some practical advice came from Carol Hamilton, a retired teacher who is a state-certified master gardener and member of the Easton Garden Club. In recent months, the club and Hamilton’s fellow master gardeners have fielded plenty of questions about the effects of winter and spring storms on plants and trees.
“Whenever you have a question, talk to a master gardener – it’s a free resource,” Hamilton noted. “Or better yet, take the course.”
Mark Your Calendars! The ever-popular Citizens for Easton Farm Tour is scheduled for Saturday, August 11, 2018 from 10-2. The starting point to check in and pick up your map to Easton farms is Samuel Staples Elementary School, located at 515 Morehouse Road, Easton. Come and enjoy the agricultural delights, food, fun, and educational activities as we celebrate Easton’s farming community. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting annual event!
Citizens for Easton meets the third Wednesday of every month at 8 PM in the library conference room. Due to COVID, we have been meeting via conference call. If you would like to attend a meeting, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will provide you with the meeting information.