“But good farming is first and last an art, a way of doing and making that involves human histories, cultures, minds, hearts, and souls.”Wendell Berry
For the past two centuries, America’s farms have turned toward large industrial agribusiness, aiming to maximize profits and production, using harsh chemicals and fertilizers with a disregard for the climate, soil, water, humans and animals. Many smaller independent farmers have retired without successors, as their children pursue easier and more lucrative careers. Fortunately, there has been an emergence of younger farmers, who have moved away from the mass-produced food industry, making people, once again, a priority over corporations.
Sustainable farming focuses on the local countryside, people and their needs: providing healthier food options, bringing community together by celebrating and educating people about the importance of healthy, locally sourced food and growing practices.
Patti Popp and her husband Al Popp of Sport Hill Farm moved to Easton in 1997. They immediately fell in love with a dilapidated 1740 home and with the land. In 2000, they began clearing the land to begin a vegetable farm. They were both self-taught farmers and thankful for other seasoned Easton farmers like Johan van Achterberg and Sal Gilbertie, who were always open to helping and guiding them through some learning obstacles. To this day sustainable farming has been an important part of the Popp’s farming practices.
“When crops do well we share with our community by offering sales and donate to different organizations,” said Patti Popp. “Currently, our delicious butternut squash and spaghetti squash is just .99 cents a pound. When nature is kind to us, we share by offering pricing accessible to all. Financially it may not be what we were expecting, but all the time, labor and love that goes into growing crops, seed to harvest, I rather see people enjoy it at a lower cost than to compost it. Our farm pretty much grows all your traditional vegetables in their season. Purchasing it in our market, it’s freshly harvested within 24 hours from our fields to your plate,” Popp said.
Providing locally grown healthy produce and bringing community together has been the Popp’s priority for 23 years. In their early days of farming, they hosted a farm camp with the Unquowa School in Fairfield. They still enjoy welcoming groups and schools in the spring for field trips and hands-on learning. During the pandemic, they started an outdoor flea market that supports other local small businesses. They also host a local pizza truck on the farm Thursday nights from 4-6 p.m. for our town to be able to pick up freshly made pizzas, including pies featuring Sport Hill Farm produce. .
Sport Hill is mainly a vegetable farm, but they do have chickens for eggs. Some of the produce items they sell in their farm store are:
- Honeynut (crosses between butternut & buttercup squash)
- Delicata (heirloom squash with edible rind)
- Brussels sprouts
- Red peppers
- SHF marinara & crushed tomatoes
- Fresh eggs
Harvested popping corn, which is currently in the drying process, will be ready for the holiday season. They also sell honey from hives located on the three properties that they farm and sponsor a yearly cash crop. Registration for the cash crop program begins in February.
Proof Pizza truck will be at the farm on Thursday nights until December 21 for take out. Pre-order and drive up between 4 – 7 p.m. for fresh pizza.
When the Brady family moved away from Easton five years ago, Brittany and Jake Conover moved into the Shaggy Coos property, trying to change it from more of a hobby based farm to a full time business. Their aspiration, like the Popp’s, has been to be as sustainable and least impactful on the environment.
“We take pride in dairy that has a 0 mile carbon footprint as well as a farm store that is run off of solar panels. In, addition we are happy to have a variety of meats that are raised on the farm and processed locally, again to keep the impact on our environment low,” says Jake Conover.
Their poultry, eggs and pork also come directly from their farm. Their beef comes from a farm in Terryville, Conn., which means it is extremely fresh. They also have horses, ducks and goats, roaming around their property.
Jake and Brittany welcome the newest young farmer to Shaggy Coos, son Kip, who will be a year old in December!
Shaggy Coos is also one of the only operating dairy farms in Connecticut. The dairy products they sell at their farm store are directly sourced from their cows, traveling zero miles to get from the farm to the customer. They make white and chocolate whole milk (pasteurized, but not homogenized), ice cream and yogurt. They also make eggnog this time of year! During the summer months, they make their own strawberry gelato and strawberry milk, and on occasion, orange cream gelato. They hope to have raw milk in the near future, and possibly goat’s milk at some point next year.
The future of sustainable farming requires an effort on the part of both the farmer and consumer. There are currently 22 operating farms in Easton. We are very fortunate to live in such an active farming community that carries on Easton’s rich farming past and is able to provide the town with healthy lifestyle alternatives..
Sport Hill Farm is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 am-6:00 pm. Shaggy Coos Farm Store is open every day from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., 365 days a year.