Abbot Hill Agriculture - Vital and Growing
There is a rich history of biodynamic and community supported agriculture on Abbot Hill — a tradition that is driving High Mowing’s efforts to raise funds to purchase and conserve Frye Field. We spoke with Lincoln Geiger, co-founder of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm and dear friend of High Mowing, about the history of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm (the oldest continually-running CSA in America) and how the acquisition and conservation of 90+ acres of pristine wilderness will add to the vitality of Abbot Hill.
How did your story in Wilton start? When did you come to the area and why?
I came to Wilton in 1979, I had a son who was ready to go to school. I was in Boston for six months scouting for a place where there was farmland and a Waldorf school. I checked out a few different areas—Hawthorne Valley in New York, the Boston area—but I loved Wilton, mostly for its community. It was an incredibly dynamic group of people up here, very welcoming.
There were a few farming activities up here already. Samuel Kaymen was the farmer at High Mowing at the time, he was also the executive director of the Biodynamic Association. He would take you aside and scoop up some dirt and say, “See that stuff? You know what that is? Are you sure you know what that is? That’s life!” He started the [Northeast Organic Farming Association] movement, and then he started Stonyfield Farm. He had his kids in Pine Hill and High Mowing and he became a close friend.
Tell us about the history of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm.
Trauger Groh brought this idea of sharing the cost of the farm on a larger scale, and the Temple-Wilton Community Farm started at Echo Farm, now the Lucas Foundation, in Temple, and the Groh’s farm in Wilton. The farm started in ’86, and it was probably in ’89 or ’90 when we separated from the Lucas Foundation. I rented Four Corners Farm, but it wasn’t a good deal. We made an offer to the people who owned Four Corners. They had bought it from Mrs. Emmet’s son, and he had built up the farm and made it very modern. But they didn’t want to sell. There was a piece of land that came up for sale across from Orchard View Drive on Abbot Hill Road, it was a 42 acre piece. We decided since we couldn’t buy Four Corners that we would move down there. We fundraised for it and bought it and had architectural plans made for the barn and the house.
Then one day this guy shows up and says that he’s bought Four Corners Farm. He said “I hear you guys are doing good work, and maybe you would be interested in getting a 99 year lease on the agricultural part?” After some deliberation we decided to go with Four Corners. It was right between the two schools; who could ask for a better spot? We had to raise $550,000 in two years, but we did it. We gave the Orchard View land to a land trust, and so we have a 99 year lease on the Orchard, we have a 99 year lease on Four Corners Farm, and since then we’ve added a couple of nice areas.
Was there already an atmosphere of community supported agriculture on the hill?
In a way. The idea was a ripe idea, and it would have come somewhere. More than half of what’s needed for the creation of a CSA is that a society is ready for it. I don’t feel like I can take credit or we can take credit for being the first CSA. It was our society as a whole, and elements within it—especially the Waldorf people—that made us ready for it. The schools laid the foundation for the CSA memberships since most members were from the Waldorf movement.
In an ideal world, how would you use the land we’re acquiring, specifically Frye’s Field?
Most of the field would be permanent sod, it’s too steep to cultivate all the time. It would erode really fast and you would lose all the soil. Some of it could be in grain crops, and animals would have to kept somewhere for manure to keep the fertility up. It’s an expensive endeavor, farming. Four Corners already has the equipment, and if High Mowing needs to rotate its vegetable crops we could swap land and get a bigger rotation for crops and grazing.
There is an added value to the school’s prestige from being involved in agriculture because the world is changing. There is a much bigger interest to be connected to agriculture than in the past. It’s a burning issue — where you get your food.
Do you have anything else to add?
If it wasn’t for Mrs. Emmet, we wouldn’t be here. The farm wouldn’t be here, Pine Hill wouldn’t be here, and High Mowing wouldn’t be here. The reason Mrs. Emmet came here — that would be a good thing to find out. Maybe those things that drew her here draw all of us here!
Interviewed by Kurt Schmidlein, Development Associate
Wednesday October, 2, 2013
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