Lachat Town Farm aims to be a social experience

Carol Baldwin, head of Friends of Lachat, and Ellen McCormick, chairman of the Lachat Town Farm Commission, dedicate much of their time to helping run Lachat Town Farm on Godfrey Road West – Gregory Menti photo

Carol Baldwin, head of Friends of Lachat, and Ellen McCormick, chairman of the Lachat Town Farm Commission, dedicate much of their time to helping run Lachat Town Farm on Godfrey Road West – Gregory Menti photo

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series about farms in Weston.

It didn’t take Lachat Town Farm long to become a staple and social hub in the town of Weston.  

“There is no other multigenerational spot in town for people to mingle with each other,” said Ellen McCormick, chairman of the Lachat Town Farm Commission. “There is no other place where a senior citizen will interact with a high school intern.”

In 1997, the late Leon Lachat left his 42-acre farm on Godfrey Road West to both the town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy, with the town maintaining responsibility for the 19-acre front meadow portion of the property and the conservancy controlling the wooded area that abuts Devil’s Den Preserve.

The property remained untouched for more than a decade, and in 2011, the town came close to tearing down the 1770 farmhouse on the property.

A group called Friends of Lachat, headed by Carol Baldwin, stepped in to stop the demolition of the house, and that’s how a full-on revival of the property got underway.

Life has begun to pop up at the Lachat community garden. – Gregory Menti photo

Life has begun to pop up at the Lachat community garden. – Gregory Menti photo

In 2014, Lachat broke ground on a community garden that gives Westonites a place to grow their own vegetables and herbs.

Designed by Michelle Fracasso of Wells Hill Farm, the community garden began with 42 garden plots available for rental by Weston residents.

In May, eight more plots will be added to the garden, meaning 50 different Weston families will have a place to grow their own produce.

All 50 plots are currently spoken for and there is a waiting list to get a plot.

“The community garden is a very social place,” said McCormick. “Countless people have made friends in the garden.”

McCormick hopes that next year, Lachat will be able to expand the community garden toward the road, but she isn’t sure exactly how big an expansion would be.

“We want to be able to accommodate Weston residents that want a plot,” she said, adding that if there was excess space they’d open up plots to people who live out of town.

The future

McCormick said the community has been very supportive of the farm and people are always telling her they are looking forward to what is coming next for Lachat.

A 19- by 24-foot greenhouse should be fully available for use starting in May. McCormick said there will be three rows of growing tables in the greenhouse to accommodate as much year-round use as possible.

She is excited about the prospect of year-round agricultural growth at Lachat and anticipates the greenhouse becoming as popular as the community garden, albeit smaller. The greenhouse won’t be visible from the road and will be located behind the machine shop.

Bo, owned by contractor Dave Gengo, relaxs at Lachat Town Farm. – Gregory Menti photo

Bo, farmhouse contractor Dave Gengo’s dog, relaxs at Lachat Town Farm. – Gregory Menti photo

Additionally, McCormick is excited about the upcoming children’s garden, which will be located directly in front of the greenhouse.

McCormick said that both the greenhouse and the children’s garden are perfect ways the farm can expand its children’s programs.

“Kids are extremely nature-deprived these days,” she said. “It’s amazing how many kids think a carrot comes from a store.”

The current community garden is already a family experience, McCormick said, but adding a children’s garden and a greenhouse will only increase the focus on getting kids involved and teaching them about nutrition and how to grow their own food.
“We want people to bring their kids here,” she said. “We’re going to start placing more of an emphasis on children’s programs.”

McCormick also hopes to introduce some small animals to Lachat in the near future for educational purposes. She said by next year they hope to have a pen with goats, rabbits, chickens, and sheep so kids can come by and meet the animals.

She said they can’t add animals to the farm, though, until they hire a farmhand to live in the farmhouse on the property.

McCormick said they have received applications for a farmhand to live rent-free on the property. The person’s duties will include basic maintenance and running programs at the farm.

There are also currently three Eagle Scout projects in the works that will add a new element to Lachat farm.

Last year, Boy Scout Andrew King assembled a number of Adirondack chairs to line the property, giving people places to sit and relax at the farm.

An Adirondack chair in thec community garden – Gregory Menti photo

An Adirondack chair in the community garden – Gregory Menti photo

Boy Scout Oliver Zych plans to add a small informational kiosk and an observational beehive on a hill that overlooks the property.

Boy Scout Peter Ascher plans to add a small gravel area in the center of the community garden so people will have a place to sit and socialize.

McCormick believes all three projects will have a large positive upside and help make Lachat a truly communal place.

She also wants to bring more non-agricultural events and exhibits to the farm in the near future.

Once the farmhouse renovation is complete, McCormick wants the building to showcase local art and become a meeting spot that is available for rent. She’d also like to incorporate music on the farm.

“This environment is absolutely conducive to music and art,” she said. “You can just imagine an outdoor concert here with an orchestra on the side of the hill and people watching from below.”

Lachat is no stranger to hosting art on the property. There are currently six sculptures by Cheyenne-Arapaho artist Elwood M. Reynolds near the community garden. The sculptures were donated by Mike Smith of Dirt Road Farm.

A scarecrow that overlooks the community garden. – Gregory Menti photo

A scarecrow that overlooks the community garden. – Gregory Menti photo

Programs

There will be a number of new programs for all ages at Lachat throughout the spring and summer.
On Saturday, May 7, there will be a vernal pool walk. A vernal pool is a temporary wetland that houses a variety of animals and plants. The walk will teach people about vernal pools as they view salamanders, toads and more in their natural habitat.

Local teenage falconer Christine Peyreigne will host a few “bird of prey” classes at the farm at undetermined dates throughout the spring. Christine will bring some of her birds to the farm and teach attendees about raptors and their habitats and what falconry is.

On Saturday, June 18, there will be a children’s program called “Native American Culture and the Environment.” The class will teach children about Native American cultures and customs.

Additional upcoming programs include a pickling class, painting programs, and a homemade salad dressing class. A full list of programs and registration information is available at lachattownfarm.org.

“A lot of people don’t even know we exist,” said McCormick. “This is one of the few places in town where people can come to meet their neighbors in an atmosphere with others enjoying nature.”

Baldwin hopes the town uses Lachat as a strategic planning asset in the future.

“If I were moving to town and I heard that there was a place with all of these nature programs, I would be all over it. I would want a place to meet new people,” Baldwin said. “I really think we can be the soul of the town for years to come.”

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