Category Archives: Supporting local agriculture

CITIZENS FOR EASTON – LAST YEAR’S FUN FARM TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

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A tisket, a tasket, win a goodie basket in Easton

By Jane Paley on August 16, 2016 in Community,

Easton’s Eighth Annual Farm Tour, this year scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20, from 10 to 3, will offer free chances to win five prizes instead of last year’s single “Big Red Basket.”

Arriving visitors to the Firehouse Green, the first stop on the tour, may enter the free drawing for five different prizes, all of which were donated by Easton farms, businesses, artists and artisans. Baskets containing local non-perishable treats, autographed books by local authors, and a children’s gift bag are among the offerings.

Winners will be contacted at the end of the tour and may claim their prizes thereafter. This year’s donors include James Prosek, the Apple Barn, Silverman’s, Sport Hill Farm, and the Easton Village Store.

Tickets (one per family) will be at the Citizens for Easton tent on the green.

This year, the odds of winning are five times better!

8th Annual Farm Tour Date Set

August 20, 2016-Save the date!

More info to follow!

 

 

 

 

Partnership would preserve Gilbertie property Land and greenhouses would be protected for open space and farming

Dan Levinson, president of Main Street Resources, and Sal Gilbertie shake hands to seal their business deal.

A third-generation farmer, Sal Gilbertie gets up every morning and goes to work all day in his four acres of greenhouses on Adams Road. He grows petite edibles, cut greens and other USDA-certified organic products to sell to leading food markets in the tri-state area.

He and his family own and operate Gilbertie’s Herbs and Garden Center in Westport, begun by his grandfather, in addition to farming the wholesale operation in Easton.

Farming is what Gilbertie loves, and at 79, he shows no signs of slowing down or wanting to do anything else.

“I hope I can keep doing it all my life,” he said at the end of a busy workday.

But farming has challenges beyond dawn-to-dusk hard work and the whims of Mother Nature.

Three years ago, financial reality forced him to sell the 34-acre property on Adams and Keller roads that he and his wife, Marie, purchased in 1984. Dan Levinson, president of Main Street Resources, a limited liability company in Westport, bought it. Gilbertie continues to operate his business through a lease with Levinson.

Levinson and David Brant, executive director of the Aspetuck Land Trust, want to create a conservation easement that would preserve 15.4 acres of the property as open space and have approached the town of Easton about forming a partnership.

The site abuts Randall’s Farm Preserve, the 34-acre former farm that Joan DuPont donated to the land trust three years ago.

Brant and Ross Ogden, a Planning and Zoning Commission alternate, presented a broad overview of the proposed partnership to the Board of Selectmen, subject to negotiations and taxpayer approval.

The other half of the property, with its working greenhouses and buildings, plus the house, which sits on three acres, would continue to be a farm.

Brant said the proposed venture would be “a nice extension” to the 34 acres Joan Dupont donated, and that the land trust “would work very hard to come to some kind of a deal.”

“We love Easton, which has a great agricultural heritage and ongoing agricultural enterprises,” Brant said. “Preventing Gilbertie’s farm from being developed is a good thing. It’s fortunate that Dan has the means and inclination to preserve it as an agricultural enterprise.”

Sport Hill Farm also grows vegetables on the site, Brant said.

With regard to the 14 acres that would be preserved as open space, Brant said the land trust would undertake fund raising to come up with the money to purchase it, if the town is able to be a partner.

“We’d like to see Gilbertie’s Farm preserved, and we’re going to try to make it happen,” First Selectman Adam Dunsby said.

The town has a fund for fees in lieu of open space that can be used only for open space purchases. People who come before the Planning and Zoning Commission for subdivision approvals have the choice of donating 15% of the land they are developing or the cash equivalent. Over the years the fund has accrued $806,916.

Two other funds might be able to be tapped for money for this purpose, the agriculture land preservation fund, which has $66,595 and the land acquisition fund, which has $8,752.

“So the town is in the rare position of actually having money that could be used for this purpose as I understand it,” Dunsby said. “If the town participated, there would be no tax impact. We would be drawing on existing funds.”

Since the partnership involves a purchase, it would require a referral to the Planning and Zoning Commission, meetings with the Board of Finance and a Town Meeting. Nothing is set in stone since the idea is in the conceptual stage, subject to negotiations, but the parties are anxious to move it forward.

“We purchased the property from Sal three years ago to protect it and are hoping to work with the land trust, the town and Sal to put a transaction together that protects the farm long-term for the community,” Levinson said. “We would love to keep it as an operating farm and protect it from rising prices and fear of future development.”

Levinson said Easton is one of the few parts of the world that has a shot at preserving small, working farms, “preserving something really beautiful.”

“We believe that the local food system is really critical in New England, and places like Gilbertie’s can play a critical role in bringing local farming back to life,” Levinson said.

He is cofounder to the Green Village Initiative, a nonprofit in Bridgeport, whose mission is to create social, economic and environmental change through a network of ,  and . The initiative promotes and educates the community about nutrition, healthy eating, agriculture, and gardening in an urban setting.

“We have a strong interest to get something done in the town’s and land trust’s interest, as we set out to protect the farm,” Levinson said.

Gilbertie said he just had his best quarter selling petite edibles and is excited about the prospect of working with Brant and Levinson, whom he considers friends, and the town to preserve the farming legacy in Easton.

A renowned expert on herbs and vegetables,Gilbertie has written half a dozen books, available on Amazon.com, and appeared on the Martha Stewart Show.

Stewart had this to say about Gilbertie’s fifth book, Small-Plot, High-Yield Gardening: “Whether you have a real garden or just a window box, I can think of no better guide to creating a sustainable herb and vegetable garden than Sal Gilbertie,” she said. “For more than 30 years I have turned to Sal for healthy, productive plants. With this useful and informative book, he can help you, too, cultivate your garden.”

2015 FARM TOUR

Redding man wins basket full of treats
By Jane Paley, Contributor on August 25, 2015 in Business, Connecticut News, Lead News, News • 0 Comments

To celebrate the seventh annual farm tour, Citizens for Easton raffled a big red basket packed with produce and goodies from local farms, businesses and artists.
Drum roll please! From nearly 100 participants in the first annual Citizens for Easton Farm Tour “Big Red Basket” raffle, the winner is Chris O’Rielly of Redding.
His winnings include donations of goodies from Silverman’s Country Market, the Easton Village Store, Blue Button Farm, Sport Hill Farm, Sherwood Farm and the Aspetuck Valley Apple Barn.
Fair Hill Farm donated one full week of horseback riding camp. Art photographer Jeff Becker contributed a framed photo and Sal Gilbertie donated three gardening books. Fitness trainer Bob Danuzer will give the winner an in-home training session.
Margot Abrams of Floral Designs by Margot contributed a succulent garden arrangement. The winner will be able to get some free gas courtesy of the Old Blue Bird Garage. Greiser’s provided this year’s big red basket.
By every measure, this year’s Farm Tour was a big success. The weather was beautiful and the chance to sample Easton’s bounty drew crowds of happy visitors from near and far.

2015 CFE Annual Newsletter

2015 CFE Annual Newsletter

Please join us for our annual meeting on Monday, June 22 at 7:00 PM in the Easton Public Library.

Featured speaker: Douglas Thompson, Author of The Quest for the Golden Trout

The Facts About the Proposed Town Green Center

I oppose the proposed amendment to current zoning regulations to create a new district called a “Town Green Center” at the intersection of Sport Hill Road, Center Road and Banks Road.  

I oppose this amendment for the following reasons: 

  1. Approving the proposed amendment will effectively break our Town’s current zoning laws that have protected Easton from developers and businesses since 1941.  The stores that are currently doing business in Easton pre-date Easton’s strict no-commercial zoning regulations.  
  1. We cannot limit commercial development to a particular piece of property in Easton since “Spot Zoning” is illegal. 
  1. The revenue generated from a small shop is negligible.  For example, a small commercial facility with a fair market value of $1 million would generate annual taxes of $16,520 or a savings of about $6.61 per household.  Accordingly, it would take approximately 20 to 30 village stores to make a 1% dent in the Town budget.  
  1. Commercial development will bring about increased traffic, higher Town expenses for the infrastructure to support it, a loss of the uniqueness of our Town and a decrease in property values.  
  1. Some people advocate commercial development for the sake of convenience, including a bank, pharmacy, dry cleaner, ice cream shop, hardware store, wine shop, butcher, pizzeria, etc.  If everyone’s idea of convenience is not satisfied, then what is accomplished and at what cost? 
  1. As the current stewards of Easton, the residents bear a responsibility for our Town.   Anything we do will affect the Town for generations to come and any changes that are enacted will be irreversible.   
  1. Many people point to the Weston Town Shopping Center as a model for Easton. This is a bad comparison for several reasons.  First, Easton is close to Monroe, Fairfield, Trumbull where Easton residents can go to stores, restaurants, etc.  Weston does not have the same proximity to town(s) with significant commercial development.  Second, Weston was in the process of enacting zoning regulations which would have prevented the center, but the center was rushed to get in under the gun.  Weston continues to have pressure to expand the center which they resist or to have other commercial areas which they also resist.  
  1. The State Department of Environmental Protection discourages development in the watershed, especially sewers, and encourages no more than two bedrooms per upland acre.  Easton does not have the infrastructure (i.e. – sewers, roads, etc.) for commercial development. 
  1. Remember that once the doors to development are open, they can never be closed.  
  1. The bottom line is the “reward” of having some minor conveniences and minimal revenue is outweighed by the risk of jeopardizing our current protective zoning regulations.  

Thank you for your time and consideration. James Riling  265 North Park Avenue. Easton, CT 06612