Grit Blogs > The Chicken Chick

Farm Fest 2012: A Commitment to Preserving our Agricultural Legacy in Suffield, CT

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I live in Suffield, Connecticut, a small, rural community with a rich, farming history dating back to the 1600s. Each year, the town  gathers to celebrate our past and commit to preserving the town’s agricultural legacy at “Farm Fest.”  This past Labor Day weekend, we participated in the 10th Annual Farm Fest at Hilltop Farm, the focus of which is clearly on entertaining and educating the children about the importance of respecting and caring for our farmland and community. Our children enjoyed activities from harvesting potatoes to shucking corn, milking cows to riding ponies, riding in a tractor parade and observing bees making honey.

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Next year, I think I'll bring real chickens and eggs to give the town's kids the full experience.

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The tractor parade is always a highlight for us.

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 My friend, Lauren Hastings Kaplan, preparing for a milking demonstration.

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 Digging for potatoes.

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Being a backyard chicken-keeper has fostered in me a genuine sense of connectedness to the land, my food and my community that I had never previously felt. My hope is that in sowing the seeds of rural pride with our children, their appreciation for the land and sustainability will grow into a feeling of civic responsibility for maintaining it.  

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 You know you live in a farm town when you can recognize the cows by name. This is Ginger (left). She lives at Hastings Farm, where I sell my fresh eggs.

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 The Wingmasters, Birds of Prey demonstration was riveting. The Red-tailed hawk was once on the brink of extinction due to the use of DDT but is no longer in danger due in part to the efforts of raptor rehabilitators such as Anne Collier (shown).  This partiular hawk was hit by a car and cannot be released back into the wild.

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 This 33 year old Golden Eagle named Dakota weighs 17 pounds and has a wing span of 7 feet. She used to be able to fly at speeds up to 100 miles per hour and take down an adult antelope until someone shot her in the wing, permanently disabling her.


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 This Barn Owl is not indigenous to New England and despite having found his way here, is not cold-hardy, which explains why he and his friends can be found in barns seeking warmth.

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A little bit about the history of Hilltop Farm: George M. Hendee, of Indian Motorcycle fame, founded Hilltop Farm in 1913, completing his “Monster Barn” at the beginning of World War I in 1914. Two years later, he retired to this 500-acre farm, raising a prized herd of Guernsey cows known as Hilltop Butterfats, which became well-known throughout the cattle breeding industry. He also established a model poultry plant for the breeding of White Leghorn chickens. Hilltop Farm became an important producer of milk, dairy and poultry

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The Hilltop Farm property:

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In 1940, Charles Stroh, a prominent Connecticut attorney and public servant, bought the farm from Hendee, who died in 1943.
Over the years, Stroh downsized operations and subdivided the farm. After Stroh died in 1992, farming on the remaining 250 acres soon ceased. In 2002, the Town of Suffield acquired 117 acres and “The Friends of the Farm at Hilltop,”a non-profit, all volunteer organization, was formed to save George Hendee’s 20,000-square-foot dairy barn from sale and possible demolition. 

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The vision of The Friends of the Farm at Hilltop is to help people connect with the land and learn from it. They believe there is nothing that can’t be learned on a farm: caring for the land, growing food, building and repairing, responsibility, creativity, leadership, recycling, teamwork and more.  It is for these reasons that The Friends work to rehabilitate structures and bring the farmland back into production with crops, animals, conservation areas and hands-on learning opportunities. Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when this chicke coop might be restored to its former glory. It was a beauty in its time.

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 For more images and information about this historic property that is the heart of the place I call home, please visit: 

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kathy mormino
9/9/2012 2:06:12 AM

Sorry, Robin. I called you Amy, long day. Congratulations just the same Robin! :)

kathy mormino
9/9/2012 2:05:30 AM

Amy, congratulations! You have won your choice of a Grit Magazine Special Edition: Guide to Backyard Chickens, Backyard Rabbits, Backyard Bees and Honey or Baking Bread!! Please email me with your address and preference and we'll get it right out to you!

kathy mormino
9/9/2012 2:03:29 AM

My pleasure Amy, thank you!

kathy mormino
9/9/2012 2:02:56 AM

There's always next year, Rachel! See you there. :)

kathy mormino
9/9/2012 1:59:32 AM

Good for you Tami! It is a wonderful town, we love it. :)

amy arnold
9/8/2012 1:20:05 PM

Wow, what a beautiful farm! What a great group of people for preserving it and what a wonderful idea to share it with the community! Definitely need more of these activities everywhere! Thank you for sharing!

rachel salinardi
9/8/2012 1:01:24 PM

I would have loved to bring my 3 kids to your festival! I live in CT also, but somehow managed to miss this event. I think it's so important to teach our kids about farming and homesteading.

patricia furner
9/8/2012 12:22:30 PM

What a great event for your community! We are a rural community, but it seems like not many kids get to enjoy agriculture. As a "farm-kid" I certainly get it...and have my own mini farm to help my son experience agriculture. We, as a society, can't let our kids forget about agriculture, since it is the backbone of our nation!

tami seibold
9/8/2012 8:10:50 AM

Looks like a fun time! We are working to be more connected to the land both for us and for our children. We hope to instill our children with a love of animals and a sense of doing for ones self. Looks like a fantastic community to be a part of.

kathy mormino
9/7/2012 7:12:28 PM

Thank you for visiting my blog, Karen!

kathy mormino
9/7/2012 7:12:12 PM

I think it starts with the kids, Joyce. Unfortunately many of the important values are lost on them these days. I think it's my job to make sure my children learn what matters and where their food comes from; events like this really help me do my job. :)

kathy mormino
9/7/2012 7:10:23 PM

Hi Jessica. Thank you very much. It's nice to have you with me here at Grit Magazine online!

kathy mormino
9/7/2012 7:09:52 PM

Thank you, Robin!

karen smiddie
9/7/2012 6:07:40 PM

Love all the chick pictures, inspires me to photo ours.

joyce scott
9/7/2012 5:36:10 PM

I loved the history behind this and how you try to connect everyone to the land. We need more of that today and for people to realize our resources will only last for as long as we value what we have!

jessica casteel
9/7/2012 5:35:12 PM

I love all of your articles! Always very informative!

robin fallot
9/7/2012 5:22:41 PM

What a beautiful place to live! These get togethers are always fun and a nice way to spend the day with family and friends. Need so many more of these! Thanks for sharing and thanks for all the information you provide to all us newbes

kathy mormino
9/7/2012 5:15:41 PM

We look forward to it every year!

esther widgren
9/7/2012 5:08:01 PM

Looks like fun was had by all. I LOVE these kinds of activities! Wish I could have been there :-)