Friends of Holcomb Farm holds annual meeting

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Photo by Shirley Murtha

First Selectman Scott Kuhnly and Town Manager John Ward took their job of judging the Holcomb Farm Pie Contest very seriously.

How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm? Give ‘em pie! The Friends of Holcomb Farm held its annual meeting on Sunday, June 9.  It included a pie judging contest, after which the edible entries were eagerly consumed by the attending members. Pies were judged by Town Manager John Ward and First Selectman Scott Kuhnly, who sampled each before declaring Susan Canavan’s blueberry entry the winner. A mixed berry and a maple pie took second and third places.

Friends’ Board of Directors President Bob Bystrowski presented an overview of Farm operations. Despite a cold, wet spring, the CSA program remained on schedule to open June 11, the Fresh Access program continues to succeed in bringing bushels of nutritious produce to those in need.  The Friends have also established a new Tree Trail. .

Head farmer Joe O’Grady noted that optimism runs high on the farm, with improvements in equipment and infrastructure. The hail-damaged hoop house has been replaced, and additional ones will extend the Farm’s activity into the shoulder seasons. The pop-up greens sales at Lost Acres Vineyard and the Brewery at Maple View Farm were quite successful, as was the plant and seedling sale held at the Farm in early June. These activities help make up for CSA membership numbers being down slightly from last year.

The success of the Fresh Access program continues to grow from its humble beginnings in 2010. In 2018, it supplied more than eight tons of produce to more than 1,300 people and is recognized regionally as being in the vanguard of working to address the lack of available nutritious food for those in need. Granby Social Services privately identifies families eligible for free CSA shares, and the Farm distributes to the Waste Not Want Not Community Dinner and the Granby Senior Center, as well as regionally to the Farmington Valley based Healing Meals Community Project, the Hispanic Health Council of Hartford and Wheeler Clinic.

In addition to the farming operations, the Friends is responsible for stewarding the remainder of the 312 acres of Holcomb Farm land. The Friends’ Stewardship Chair Eric Lukingbeal described the work required to maintain the Farm’s 10 miles of hiking trails, to annually mow the East Fields to keep the trails wide open and to prevent invasives from encroaching upon them. This mowing is done in the fall to not interfere with nesting birds.

New this year is a pollinator garden along Simsbury Road and planting the first 16 trees in the Tree Trail in the east fields. The trees and other significant aspects of the trail, such as farm history and geology, as well as tree identification, will be marked by metal signs. It is expected that 10—12 additional trees will be planted annually through 2024.

Board Member Sue Canavan heads up the Farm’s Cultivation Program, which includes fundraising and media exposure. She reported that family memberships to the Farm have increased, as has Annual Appeal income. The popular annual Harvest Dinner and Silent Auction provide additional revenue, all of which goes to the Fresh Access program. Outreach efforts take place through the Farm’s website, emails, and social media. The Farm’s logo was updated this spring, and new logos were designed for the Farm Store and the Tree Trail.

The treasurer’s report showed an increase income in all categories over the previous year. Income from farming operations and special events was quite successful. In addition, the Farm received three substantial grants. The Pomeroy-Brace Grant, administered by the Hartford Foundation for Giving, allowed the replacement of the hoop house, new propagation benches, a run-in to cover farm equipment from the elements, and trees, labels and interpretive signs for the Tree Trail.

The Hartford Foundation also provided a grant to help fund the institutional shares provided by Fresh Access to the Wheeler Clinic.

A State of Connecticut Farm Viability Grant will fund a farm consultant to support development of a five-year farming plan.

In conclusion, President Bystrowski commended Farmer O’Grady for creating a good business budget, challenging as it is, with no knowledge of what the weather and sales will be.  Bystrowski also noted that O’Grady’s interaction with other Granby farmers establishes a relationship of cooperation rather than competitiveness. Along this line, the Farm continues to carry products from a range of Granby farms in its Farm Store. The Farm also continues to work with like-minded organizations to promote local farms and the preservation of farmland in Granby.