Personal histories added context to BOS discussion of Holcomb Farm conservation plan

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During the public session discussion of the proposed Long-term Conservation and Sustainability Plan for Holcomb Farm on Oct. 17, some people presented personal memories and stories in their encouragement for approval of the plan. Their words added weight and were greatly appreciated by the many residents in the Town Hall meeting room.

President of the board of the Friends of Holcomb Farm, Bob Bystrowski, spoke of how he had “dreams of farming the land (aka Green Acres)” when he and his wife Catherine bought a vintage house on Wells Road. After purchasing several antique tractors, he realized that “farming takes much more skill than practicing law,” but still dreamed that their fields could be used to grow something valuable.

Catherine asked then Holcomb Farm farmer Sam Hammer if he would like to use their five-acre field as an accessory remote operation. After soil samples indicated that, yes, chemical-free farming could be done there, kale, squash and broccoli were planted. Invited to Friends of the Farm events, Bob was eventually asked to join the board, becoming president just as the Memorandum of Understanding was being negotiated with the Town. He noted that the conservation plan “honors the legacy of all those who worked so hard to honor the legacy of Laura and Tudor Holcomb.”

Rick Orluk spent his childhood in Granby, exploring and enjoying the open space it provided. Noting that, “once land is gone, you can’t get it back,” it became increasingly important to him to become involved in its preservation. This eventually led to his becoming involved with the Granby Land Trust and he is now board president.  He “whole-heartedly” approved of the Long-term Plan.

Joe O’Grady, Holcomb Farm’s passionate farmer, spoke of how the Long-term Plan allows him to make long-term plans. The security of knowing that for at least the next 15 years he can rotate crops so as not to overwork fields is very important to him. Although spiced with his quick sense of humor, his satisfaction with being able to stay on this farm whose soil he has nurtured for several years now was quite evident.

Of all who spoke, however, none was received more enthusiastically than Put Brown, whose personal relationship with Tudor and Laura Holcomb lent tremendous credibility to their wish the Farm be preserved. Put went to visit the Holcombs shortly after he and Nannie moved to Broad Hill Road. He had heard much about the wonderful farm, a Granby jewel, on Simsbury Road, and how successful it was in growing a wide variety of crops.

Until Tudor died in 1978 at the age of 92, Brown visited them several times a year. Tudor was in charge of the actual farming; Laura kept the books and managed the investments. When Tudor retired in 1953, he had 150 employees on Simsbury Road and other properties that he farmed.

The Holcombs were generous with their property and their money. They allowed ice-skating on their pond in the winter and hunting in their woods in the fall. They provided the funds to build the West Granby fire house, they paid for building the town hall, and their funds in the Hartford Foundation for Giving paid for the library. Eventually they donated their farm to the University of Connecticut School of Agriculture, with a proviso that it would come to Granby if the college did not use it. Brown noted that their mantra was “We just want to do the right thing.” In addition to helping their community in so many ways, doing the right thing meant preserving the property for agriculture. “And here we are now,” Brown said. “We have the opportunity to do the right thing.”

Brown received a rousing round of applause.