Tucked away in Columbia is a farm that not only grows some good veggies and fruits, but it grows something for the community and for the future.
Sometimes you have to travel across oceans and continents to know where you belong. For Jason of Field Engineer Farm in Columbia, he found the truth in that as he saw the world through the eyes of the Navy. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with the help of ROTC and then was sent to Japan, and Gaum. There was plenty to see, but when he had finished serving, he knew exactly where he wanted to be-back home in Northeastern CT.
Jason’s dad, like him, is an engineer. The family business used those engineering skills to fix the large machinery that printers utilized to get the written word into the hands of Connecticut residents. Jason planned on coming back from the Navy and joining his dad in the work, but the digital world was becoming more and more prominent, meaning less gears and pistons to attend to and less work for the family business. His dad could run the work almost on his own, though Jason helped from time to time. So, without expecting it, Jason had his options wide open. A degree in engineering, plenty of experience in the Navy, practical knowledge from his family’s business- he could have chosen many things to devote his energy to. But what did he land on? Farming.
Now, this leap into agriculture did not come out of nowhere. Since he and wife, Cater had married, Jason had been dabbling in gardening and growing food for their little family. This dabbling became more important though as the pitter patter of children soon came to pass. Jason thought back to the huge garden his parents had kept when he was a kid. The work they did helping to tend it, the delicious meals that they would make out of fresh produce straight from the garden, the flavor of fresh peas picked straight from the plant. He loved the flavor and the meaning behind that food, and he wanted to make sure that his family had the same.
So he started working on a local farm, building his agricultural knowledge and learning the complexities of starting a small business. Where did the customers come from, what was the best way to sell product, how could he build a business to his strengths? And all the while, he and Cater were looking for land in Northeastern CT- a home their family could grow into and healthy farm soil with enough room to gradually develop a farm that would provide, not just for them and their growing children, but for the community he planned to share his crop with.
When a farmhouse with horse barn and pastures went up for sale in Columbia with prime farming soil, he knew it was time to settle in. And settle in he did. Taking his skills from engineering, he went to work creating systems and methods to create a farm that had structure, was organized, but worked in harmony with the soil and land it resided on. When you walk his field, his custom made trellising technique for tomatoes and frames for his blueberry netting make sure that he lives up to the farm’s “Field Engineer” name. When he doesn’t have the tools, or can’t afford them (yet) as a small farmer, he comes up with creative ways to tarp his fields and knock back cover crop that he has sown to feed the health of his soil.
All these creative engineer methods are working: the farm is beginning to take off. But if you take the time to interact with Jason, you quickly sense his connection with the land and the heart behind his work- providing his children with the food that meant so much to him- and providing it for the children of his community. You see it as little hands join parents in his fields to pick blueberries or flash a grin that is stuck all over with cherry tomato skins and joy.