From the Ground Up – Buying Local in Connecticut

“My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.” — H. Fred Dale.

By C. Dennis Pierce

You know what mystifies me each Spring? Daffodils. Prior to purchasing my house in Mansfield Center many years ago, the prior owner had planted many bulbs throughout the yard. It was an added bonus when spring arrived, when I found bright yellow flowers scattered throughout the property. Only later, I realized that in order to maintain them I needed to separate them when they died out.  I began to take photos of their locations so when they completed their life cycle, I would be able to dig them up. Interestingly enough, when I finally took on that project I found some of the bulbs were no longer there and to my surprise the next year these yellow harbingers of spring would be popping up in new locations throughout the yard.  Maybe it was Mother Nature’s way of playing a game of “wack a mole” or just the mischievous ways of the local squirrels digging them up and relocating them to another area. I know the squirrels were not eating them since daffodil bulbs are poisonous  to squirrels, voles, mice, and other rodents.  Who would have thought the squirrels, besides robbing all of the sunflower seeds from my birdfeeders, these chatty little buggers were also exterior decorators. I can hear them now, “Let’s see next spring we need more color in this part of the yard, or maybe over there…”

Willimantic’s, Know Your Farmers Fair, hosted a wide variety of farms, vendors, and information booths this year, probably the largest yet. I always stop by to collect farm contacts so I may feature the farms in upcoming columns. One of farms that drew my attention was Westview Farm from Woodstock, CT. Woodstock has always intrigued me, tucked into the upper corner of the Quiet Corner with it’s winding back roads and rural farmlands. From what I could find from the Woodstock Conservation Commission’s site from the internet, Woodstock has  somewhere between 39 and 46 active farms. This includes 13 operating dairy farms (down from 16 two years ago, but still more than any other town in Connecticut.) Forest-based industries include tree farms, sawmills, and maple sugaring. So, this week, to prepare for this month’s column I set off to visit Megan Harmon (in photo at right) from Westview Farm, who I met at the Know Your Farmer’s Fair. My directional app took me the long way to reach east Woodstock, but it also showed me how beautiful the area is despite it being a windy and gray day. Because of recent rains the brooks and stream were more than gurgling, they overflowed their banks racing to the larger rivers that they eventually poured into. Upon reaching the farm propped on top of a hill I knew I was in the right place with the towering, majestic barn, rows of outbuildings and an amazing scenic view.  Originally, Westview Farm was founded in the 1800s by the Wetherell Family as a dairy farm that provided glass bottled milk to the community. In the mid -1970s the Harmon Family purchased Westview Farm and successfully maintained the dairy until 1996.After the dairy herd was dissolved, a small herd of Hereford cattle was added to the farm. This was the start of the current beef herd.

Megan, a graduate of the University of Connecticut, greeted me in the small shop that is attached to the main house  It was filled with an array of products that the farm offers including their well sought after dry aged beef selections. She shared the history of the farm and environmental philosophy that makes this agricultural undertaking a rare and unique entity.   The farm is situated on a windswept hill and has an amazing view of the farm’s pastureland and the farm’s 135 acres. Megan’s parents moved from Middletown to the farm in 1976. The farm currently has a herd of about 50 to 60 head of cattle.  Unique to this farm the herd is grass feed but also is grass finished. That is to say all of the grasses and legumes that are fed to the cattle comes from the farm. The cattle are a mix of Hereford, Angus, and Simental.   Their cattle are raised with a heritage diet according to Megan. Through using regenerative methods, they are able to practice carbon sequestration, reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Additionally, on the farm  they never use herbicides or pesticides on any production on the Farm, thus eliminating any chemical impact and promoting clean farming. Megan felt strongly about her life working on the family farm. “ Farming progressively makes an impact on the food that is produced and also an impact on the environment.” 

In addition to beef the farm offers hay, fresh chicken, chicken / duck eggs and beef tallow skin care products. Also produce and flowers in season.  There are many options to purchase from the farm which is located at 209 Prospect street in East Woodstock.  The small shop is currently open every Fridays from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. From June to October the roadside stand is open from 10:00 am to 6:00pm offering in season vegetables and other items. The farm offers a variety of CSA options and a flower subscription plan. I would suggest that you check out their web site at since it is done very well, has options for ordering, and has some great photos.  The farm’s contact information is: 860.928.7491, email is 

As my forsythia  arrives in full bloom and the daffodils dance at their feet, I know that rhubarb is waiting in the wings. Rhubarb is a plant (vegetable) that is defiantly persistent with a mind of its own. It sort of takes on the role of an embarrassed celery with a green stalk on top, red on the bottom and a big leaf dancing in the sun while it also protects the garden mice from the rain. Rhubarb is unique. You either like it or not. Surprisingly sometimes rhubarb pies will show up at the local church bake sale but if you arrive late, you will never find one since they are the first to go. Oh, for the taste of rhubarb and the childhood memories it provides. I could not resist this month and provided two recipes. I hope you enjoy.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Pre- heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 8” baking pan



½ cup of butter

¾ cup of sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup of milk

2 cups of flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup sliced almonds


2 cups of sliced (1 inch) rhubarb

½ cup of sugar

4 tablespoons of water – divided

1 ½ tablespoon of cornstarch


1/2 cup of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of flour

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of butter


Prepare filling –

Combine rhubarb, sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and gently cook in a medium saucepan until rhubarb is softened but not mushy.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons of water and cornstarch. Add to rhubarb and cook until thickened. Set aside.

Prepare cake:

Cream butter and sugar. (mix together)

Blend in egg and milk

Mix flour with baking powder and salt and blend into creamed mixture

Spread half of the batter in a greased 8 inch square baking pan.

Cover with rhubarb filling and top with almonds

Top with remaining batter. 

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes until firm

……and another recipe….

Rhubarb Relish


1 quart. of rhubarb, diced

1 qt. of onions finely cut

4 cups of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of all spice

1 teaspoon of cloves

1 teaspoon of ginger

½ teaspoon pepper

2 cups of white vinegar


Combine all ingredients and heat slowly to boiling

Simmer 45 to 50 minutes until thick.

Place mixture into sterilized glass contains such as those use for canning, jelly, or jam.

Serve with meat or with a charcuterie platter.

In my last month’s column, I suggested that you save the lint from your dryer trap and place it in a suet feeder so that the birds arriving this spring will have some nesting material. I need to retract that suggestion. While at the Fair a reader shared that this is harmful to nesting birds. Upon arriving home, I found that in fact it is not a good idea. It appears dryer lint dust can be hazardous to baby bird’s lungs, and the concentrated chemicals from perfumed and dyed detergents are toxic to both baby birds as well as brooding adults. Furthermore, lint with a strong odor can attract predators, bringing them right to a vulnerable nest.

As I mentioned last month, I am incorporating some tips I have picked up along the way from farmers, markets, and local gardening associations. One tip is for better success, soak your seeds before planting. In a bowl, cover your seed with warm water and leave to soak for 6 to 24 hours. Smaller seeds and those with thinner coats need the shorter time, and larger seeds with thicker coats need the longer period. Some seeds will naturally float, and some will stay below the surface. The UConn Home Garden Center suggests that if you are working with older seeds check for viability by placing 10 seeds on a damp paper towel and keep moist until germination. Six to10 germinated seeds are a good sign.

If you are in search of compost for your garden, you might try to see if there is any still available at UConn. The dates for pick up are Friday April19, 2024 from 1 to 4 and April 20,2024 from 10 to 3. You must purchase online prior to arriving. However, it may be too late since there is always a rush to purchase and there is a limited supply. I believe this is the link to make your purchase. If it does not work contact Jaren Smith for the correct link – Purchase link:

If you find that you enjoy reading this column every month or if you have some gardening hacks you would like to share with others? Please drop me a line and let me know  at  Peas be with you. Come celebrate with me and remember, every day is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet.  I’ll save you a seat at the table! 

From the Ground Up – Buying Local in Connecticut

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