The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CT DoAg), with assistance from Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy (NCLC), has permanently protected the Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury, owned by Cathleen and Howard Bronson. The conservation easement on over 50 acres of the eighth-generation farm was purchased using a combination of State and Federal funds. This ensures the farm is protected as an agricultural property forever and cannot be sold for development.
“How lucky Howie and I have been to work this wonderful land, to grow vegetables and fruit and to have pastures filled with sheep, cows, and pigs over the years,” said Cathleen. “Cultivating crops to provide to the welcoming community has been a joy. You all probably know farming includes being out in all kinds of weather, but best is the appreciation customers share with us about fresh greens for salad or the crisp bite into an apple just picked. Maple Bank Farm has a lot of history!”
Cathleen is the eighth generation of Hurlbuts to farm here since Joseph Hurlbut set foot on the land in 1730. Over the centuries, the original Kings Grant of six acres grew in size and diversity of crops, changing with the needs of the family and community. Cathleen grew up on this land with her father Lewis Hurlbut and uncle Alden Hurlbut operating the farm in partnership. The two families grew the farm to raise poultry, vegetables, and apples which were sold on delivery routes in Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Danbury. Howard and Cathleen have farmed here since 1980 and today, Maple Bank Farm produce is all marketed at the popular farm stand in Roxbury and the Bethel Farmer’s Market.
NCLC supported Cathleen and Howard in the conservation process, from completing the initial application to aiding in the State and Federal acquisition process, and commissioning surveys and soil reports. Maple Bank Farm is the fourth farm that NCLC has helped to permanently protect through its partnership with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the 35th farm NCLC has protected since its founding in 1965. “Farmland conservation is vital to our quality of life and local economies here in Connecticut. NCLC, with the support of its members, is proud to work with our local farmers to protect these essential lands for our communities today and the generations to come,” said NCLC’s Executive Director, Catherine Rawson.
“Through our partnerships with local land trusts, such as NCLC, we are able to identify projects important to local communities,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, agriculture commissioner. “Permanently protecting properties such as Maple Bank Farm ensures that agriculture remains an integral part of the town while providing critical access to Connecticut Grown food and products.”
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program was established in 1978 to protect the prime and important farmland soils in the state to maintain and preserve agricultural land for the future. To date the program has permanently protected more than 382 farms encompassing over 45,900 acres.
Maple Bank Farm is central to community life in Roxbury. “Through the foresight of Cathy and Howie Bronson, Roxbury is the beneficiary of a conservation easement placed on over half of Maple Bank Farm,” said Roxbury’s First Selectman Barbara Henry. “Knowing we will always have the beloved farm and farmstand in the heart of Roxbury is truly a joyous occasion.”
The Bronsons remain owners of Maple Bank Farm and continue to live in the family farmhouse. For the 2020 growing season, they have leased the farmstand and a portion of the property to Dakota Rudolf-Eastman and Matt Went. Cathy and Howie plan to remain actively involved with the farm and continue to tend the lands for foreseeable future. “The air is crisp and I am heading to the orchard to pick Cortland apples. What a joy to bring these all the way to harvest after caring for the trees and fruit since last winter,” said Howie.
Due to COVID-19, a town-wide commemoration of the conservation of Maple Bank Farm was not possible. In lieu of an in-person gathering, NCLC is organizing a virtual celebration. The public is invited to share their thanks and special memories from the farm as video messages to be shared with Cathy and Howie and the community at large. To record your message, visit https://www.tribute.co/cathy-and-howard-bronson/.
Photos: Jerry Monkman, EcoPhotography, LLC