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Preston farm stand sees new life as Riegel Farm and Forge

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Anna and Mike Riegel live by the four Fs: faith, family, farming and forging. Riegel Farm and Forge is a testament to those values.

“Our core values of God and family and work, the way we raise our children in this life definitely is my absolute pride because they get to see that hard work and that love and that whole idea that this country was founded on,” Mike Riegel said. “This is the dream, you know? You work hard for what you want.”

Riegel Farm and Forge operates out of the Parkhurst Farm Stand, a long-running stand on the corner of Route 165 and Miller Road in Preston. Dave Parkhurst, who had taken over the stand from his parents, is a family friend, and he gave the Riegels two rows out of one of his fields for them to use as a family garden when they moved onto the property. He also offered to let them sell their excess produce at the stand.

This year, he gave them the whole field — about an acre — and after an injury in the spring he gave them operational control over the stand. He still grows some of his own produce to sell there, and he offers his advice from his decades of farming experience.

“He said this is a more beautiful display than when he and his wife did and when his parents did it,” Mike Riegel said. “He said, ‘I’ve never seen a better-looking stand.’”

“It’s been our absolute joy to bring life back to the Parkhurst Farm Stand,” Anna Riegel said.

While Riegel Farm and Forge isn’t organic-certified, the Riegels use organic growing practices and don’t use pesticides. All of the produce at the stand is checked daily to ensure quality, and it all comes from the Riegels’ farm or from farms owned by friends and family; both grew up in farming families, and Anna’s part of the Scott family of farmers that grow throughout eastern and central Connecticut. The tree fruits, for example, come from orchards in Glastonbury and Deep River owned by her uncles, and the corn comes from Anderson Farm in Wethersfield, a longtime partner of the Scott family.

The Riegels themselves grow a variety of farm stand staples, from tomatoes and beans to squash and root vegetables. Mike Riegel especially enjoys growing hot peppers, including ghost peppers and Carolina Reapers, and he’s excited to start planting 50 varieties of garlic for next year’s crop.

Anna Riegel said she enjoyed growing potatoes this year, as it was a crop that her family hadn’t grown. She compared it to digging for treasure.

The forge part of the business comes from Mike Riegel’s work as a blacksmith and welder. With his background as a mechanic and a Marine, he said he likes keeping busy and has done a lot of work with metal over the years. About a year ago, he was in a bad motorcycle crash, and to stay busy through his recovery, he started forging again as soon as he could stand; normally the anvil is positioned at the height of a blacksmith’s knuckles while standing upright, but he lifted it so he wouldn’t have to bend over as much.

At the stand, he displays homemade hand tools like hammers and chisels — he made all of Anna’s garden tools — as samples of the things customers can order, and he also sells figurines made of old nuts and bolts.

A recent commission he’s working on is a beer pong setup with a shelf that holds the table and game supplies.

“I sincerely love working with metal,” he said, noting that welding and forging go hand in hand. “I love doing this, too (referring to the stand). This is an awesome type of a life to live.”

He said he’s proud to show their four kids the value of hard work as well as the results of that hard work; he said they often help in the field or while he’s doing his metalwork.

“We literally reap what we sow,” Anna Riegel said.

Currently the stand is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Anna Riegel said their operations are limited to outside the physical farm stand building, between social distancing restrictions and ongoing renovation work, but they hope to sell inside when the weather gets colder.

Mike Riegel said they’re planning to sell Christmas trees and wreaths in the winter, as well as ornaments made by his brother-in-law Tim LaChapelle, a glass artist who also makes pendants and fidget items that currently sell at the stand.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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