by George Looby, DVM
In the northeast corner of Connecticut, nestled close to the borders of both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, is the so-called Quiet Corner. This region is not only known as the Quiet Corner but also as the Last Green Valley, so designated by an act of Congress in 1994, recognizing this unique area as the Quinnebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor. It is one of the last relatively undeveloped areas of almost 696,000 acres remaining in the Washington D.C. to Boston corridor with 78 percent of its area forested or farmland. Some 35 towns in eastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts constitute this rather remarkable piece of real estate.
The Last Green Valley has initiated many innovative ideas since its inception and this year it modified the format of its long standing Walktober event to put a major emphasis on the farms and farmland that exist within its borders. This series of walking tours is held annually in October and has featured a variety of areas of interest throughout the area designed to give all of those who participate a better appreciation of the area in which they live and for those from outside the regions some insights as to what makes it a special place.
This year one of the farms hosting a walking tour was Fabyan Farm, home of the New Boston Beef Co., located in the Fabyan section of Thompson, CT. The owner-operator of this operation is Jonathan Eddy who started this business approximately 10 years ago featuring grass fed beef.
Jonathan’s parents own the farm on which the business is located and for several years Ross, Jonathan’s father, operated a dairy farm here. Ross serves as USDA Farm Service Agency State Outreach Coordinator for the State of Connecticut. The home farm is 44 acres in size with another 100 acres rented in nearby Dudley, MA.
Committed to the production of a high quality, grass fed, antibiotic free product, most of the sales for Fabyan Farm take place at one of three farmers markets: Putnam, Coventry and Ellington, CT. The economics of the feeder steer market in recent years has made the transition to a brood cow operation better suited to this particular operation. Jon’s goal is to have a herd of 35 brood cows marketing about 25 head a year with an average hanging weight of 700 to 850 lbs. All of the processing is done at a USDA-inspected packing house in New Hampshire with a local livestock dealer hauling the cattle.
The farm puts up about 300 large silage bales and 320 dry bales yearly for feeding during the winter months with some corn meal fed to create a more balanced ration. To observe the herd at pasture in mid October it would appear that something is working well. The cattle are breed artificially with a clean up bull used to take care of those animals whose heats may have been missed.
On the afternoon of the walk the three members of the Eddy Family had set up an table with information available about the operation and guests were greeted as they arrived. Jonathan’s sister Rebecca gave the group an overview of the operation of the farm and once that was completed the family took the group up through the pastures, answering questions as they went along.
For some, getting up close and personal with a herd of cattle was a first-time experience and given the temperament of the Eddy herd, it was a rewarding experiment. This sort of interaction between farmers and consumers does much to dispel some of the misconceptions that build up when this personal touch is lost. PR of this type cannot easily be measured in dollars and cents and the current trend towards this type of activity is to be encouraged and supported by both the farming community and those whose who wish to better their own knowledge of where their food comes from.