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Cloverleigh Farm

People love being part of the Cloverleigh Farm CSA, and if you get to know the woman behind it, you'll start to understand why.

the front of a red barn with a sign on it that says Cloverleigh Farm

I have been involved in farming and agriculture in the state ever since I moved back about 8 years ago, and as soon as I jumped in, I started hearing about a woman- Susan Mitchell. Back then her farm, Cloverleigh, was in Mansfield at one of the rented properties in which she poured her heart and soul to create a community of food lovers through her CSA program. But she wasn’t just farming. She was also starting (with a handful of other new farmers) the New CT Farmers Alliance- an association and community for new and beginning farmers in the state where farmers could share ideas, solutions, resources, and relationships. With all that “extra free time,” she also worked hand in hand with other folks to look at policy that would work better for new and beginning farmers in CT and throughout the country.

lots of varieties of winter squash that are different shades of green and orange set out in a greenhouse

Fast forward to present day and she has finally landed at her forever farm- land she will soon be able to purchase in Columbia. She still provides tons (literally) of vegetables to her CSA members and area schools. She is constantly talking with other farmers about best practices on managing new diseases and pests that she encounters on the farm from a changing climate. Her crew is made up of folks that she mentoring, individuals that are younger and newer farmers that will someday go on and be the type of farmer that she is. So even all these years later, I still hear about this woman out in Northeast CT that is kicking butt with her farm.

It seems like a lot for one person to juggle, and honestly, I’m not 100% sure how Susan manages to give all that she gives and do all that she does (while keeping some pretty weed free rows of crops I might add!) One thing I do know is that I am always greeted with the biggest, warmest smile I could ask for. When I stop by the farm to talk about a project for new farmers, when I pop in to film a video about her farm to school efforts, when I drop off guides for her to share with CSA members, she is there, ready to share herself and her expertise.

a blackboard that has the list of items available for CSA members and the amounts they are suppose to take

And there is intention in this, as there is with her farm. Susan runs her farm using a CSA model (Community Supported Agriculture), where someone buys a share of vegetables ahead of the season and then visits the farm weekly to pick up that share while things are growing. Some folks do this as a business model that helps provide income before the summer growing starts (which I’m sure helps Susan). However, if you look at the way she interacts with people, peruse her website, or just ask her why she farms, the answer is because she believes community is at the heart of farming and definitely of HER farm.

When people come to pick up their farm share each week, Susan gets to hear stories of individuals in her community, she gets to show them the progress of the food they are eating as they stare out on the fields, or shares the difficulties of working in a challenging stint of weather. And they get to share the challenges they face in their days too. It means that Susan is part of their lives, and she is part of theirs.

woman crouching next to prepared farm beds and talking to an older gentleman

Many folks have this model, and some farms and customers are happy to have it without community being a central component. It isn’t 100% necessary, but for Susan it is essential. Though she has a well-established farm business, it isn’t chiefly about success. She farms organically because she knows that organic practices have a better long-term outcome for the health of the land and the health of our bodies. She tries to provide a good wage for her employees, and continues to work with local politicians for legislation that helps new and beginning farmers, because she believes that new farmers that stay in the field will make her farming community stronger. She commits to growing food for local schools because she knows that for some kids this can be the only exposure they get to fresh veggies and to farms in their community, which makes healthier children. Yes, all of these are “part of the business model,” but meanwhile she is proving that caring about the people around you can still enable you to provide and care for yourself. Sometimes I feel like we all forget that is a possibility, so I’m grateful for the reminder I find in Susan and Cloverleigh Farm. Not just because she is a local farmer, dedicated to her career, but also because she is a woman fiercely dedicated to her community, and someone that can remind us that we can be dedicated to our communities too.

woman holding a bouquet of yellow flowers
Photo by Molly Deegan

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