Meet your new farmers on the block in Lebanon. They traded skyscrapers for tomato trellises and they are not looking back.
Turning onto Randall Road in Lebanon, you are met with the distinct pitch of packed dirt cracking beneath rubber tires. The old road takes you back in time. Bounded by stone walls, thick with wild grapes and bittersweet, its shoulders give way to a line of hulking maple trees, signaling the entrance to a farm. Back in the 1700 and 1800’s, farmers planted maple trees along the road to their farm so when winter came, they could easily harvest the sap from buckets on trees and pour it into a waiting container in their cart. In 1876, Andrew’s great, great, great grandfather was planting those trees in Lebanon. Those old maples still line the way and Andrew has started to collect the sap again, by hand. This is your introduction to Lathrop Farmstead, a place that has been rooted in the Lebanon community since the early 1800s but has recently come back to life with maple sugaring, organic fruits and veggies, honey and eggs. Andrew and Mia are the ones to thank for that.
Though they met in New York (both working corporate jobs and living in the vertical density of Manhattan’s cityscape) Andrew had always referred to the family land that he would visit as a kid, and the two daydreamed about leaving the bustle of the city for quiet country lives. Daydreaming was not enough to scratch their itch to escape, however. A couple of years ago, propelled by COVID’s ubiquitous reach, Mia and Andrew found themselves moving back to the family farm, raising chickens and in their 50’s becoming new farmers, diving headfirst into new careers and new challenges.
Looking at their farm now, it’s hard to believe they are just in their second season. With about an acre in production, their fruit trees and berries are beginning to provide a smattering of sweet rewards here and there. The winter squash and melons crawl across the ground bulky with leaves and are heavy with crops ready to come in from the field. Marigolds head the beginning of rows of veggies, and eggplant, peppers, leafy greens and more are bursting with crops that will end up at markets, schools, and at food pantries.
As we walk through their corn they stop and admire the ears- a crop that failed last year when they were first starting. With some of the ears plumped in their green sleeves, both Andrew and Mia snap off an ear and look at each other hopefully. They slowly draw back the leaves and silk where rows of perfect kernels shimmer in the light- the gold they have been hoping for.
This small triumph was not given to them- Andrew and Mia have been studying and learning during every waking hour when they are not out on the farm. Countless time is spent on google, youtube, utilizing UConn Extension resources, and taking classes. They identify the problems they have, find a solution, or take a leap of faith, and make the changes so that the land and plants are given the best care and chance at survival. These fruits of their labor are not just small triumphs in the field but are translated into more nutritious organic food being shared within their local community.
Yes, there are days when they miss the city. The ability to choose from a bevy of different restaurants that satiate their passion for food, or to go to a cultural event at a local venue that shows them little pieces of others’ passions and stories; but they are creating something just as plentiful here. In this place, they provide space for healthy soil that is crowded with communities of thriving microorganisms; ingredients for a wide variety of cuisines; and a stillness for wildlife to wander through that is more varied than any they would find in Central Park.
So high heels and dress shoes are replaced with muck boots, high rises are exchanged for sunrises, and commutes on trains are replaced with harvests in the rain. Not everyone could make the change these two have made, but Andrew and Mia have done it with joy, grace, and (despite frustrations we’re sure), steadfast determination. Won’t you welcome them with us? They’re ready and excited to be a farm that not only hosts guests, and grows food for you, but becomes part of the fabric of our own diverse and unique community.