Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme celebrates 100 years
The owners say they have kept on adding to the farm over the years, which today is a roughly 165-acre operation with East Friesian, Lacaune, Romney and Tunis sheep, Jersey cows, ducks, chickens and a llama.
"The thing I personally like is we've improved it," said Suzanne Sankow, who runs the farm with her husband, Stanley, as she reflected on the 100-year milestone. "We've improved the land. We've improved the base of the farm. We expanded the products, and we've got great products."
The farm first began when Stanley's grandfather, Buzzell, who had come over from Austria and was residing in East Lyme, bought the land for about $3,000 on Dec. 12, 1917, the Sankows said.
When he passed, Stanley's father, Stanley Sankow Sr., bought out the other heirs and ran the dairy farm. He purchased an additional 30 acres across Beaver Brook with money he made by selling the witch hazel and black birch he cut, they said.
The farm was transferred to Stanley and Suzanne in the early 1970s and they introduced sheep to the farm in the 1980s — first for wool and then later for milk, they said. About a decade ago, they brought back dairy cows to the farm.
The farm sells sheep and cow cheese, yogurt, gelato ice cream, pesto and feta pesto, lamb, chicken, and a variety of prepared foods, such as lamb Bolognese, lamb curry, shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, chicken noodle soup and chicken corn chowder. Chef Stuart London developed the farm's recipes.
The products are sold at farmers markets in Greenwich, Westport, Madison and New Haven, and at certain stores.
The only farm with dairy sheep in the state, Beaver Brook Farm won an award for its sheep milk cheese at the Eastern State Fair Cheese competition two years ago, Suzanne said.
The farm also produces about 1,600 pounds of wool a year and sells wool products, from sweaters and jackets to scarves and hats. With so much wool available each year and their products long-lasting, the Sankows decided to use some of the wool for socks, an article of clothing that in general tends to wear out, Stanley said. Equipment in the wool room on the property includes a machine to create the socks.
Suzanne said the farm's high-quality products — in addition to the efforts begun by Stanley's grandfather and father who previously ran the farm — are the secret to its longevity. She said she and her husband are "very, very picky" when creating their products.
For example, for their gelato, which retails at $5.99 a pint, the Sankows use high-end ingredients, such as Madagascar vanilla beans, and grind up real peaches for the peach flavor, Stanley said.
The Sankows also said they don't use herbicides or pesticides on the farm and allow the animals to roam and get exercise.
Stanley, who was born and lived his whole life on the farm, said he enjoys working there and spending time in the wool shop. Suzanne, who grew up in Pawtucket, R.I., said she loves the animals and being outside.
"It was the way humans were meant to be, not doing the same thing in an artificial environment," Suzanne said.
The Sankows have ensured that the farm will be preserved for the next 100 years — and beyond. The Sankows and the state executed an agreement two years ago in which the farm will be protected under Connecticut's Farmland Preservation Program.
"The farm is in preservation," Suzanne said. "It will always remain agriculture."
To celebrate the farm's 100th birthday, the Sankows are hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the farm, 139 Beaver Brook Road, Lyme. The event will feature wagon rides, music in the greenhouse, wreaths and food that will include popcorn, chicken corn chowder, sausage, pumpkin cookies, drinks and cheese samplings. Stanley said he also hopes to show people how he can use the sock machine to create a sock in 3½ minutes.
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