Lyme’s Tiffany Farms turns a new page
Lyme — From devastating fires to personal loss, Lyme’s iconic Tiffany Farms, with its cows and red barns set atop sweeping grassy fields, has experienced its fair share of hardships over the years.
Comparing the farm to a phoenix, however, the Tiffany family, which still owns and maintains the farm, announced recently it is finally ready to make a comeback by hosting its own farmers market this summer.
Scheduled to start June 15, the market will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 12, rain or shine. With plans to host the market on one of the farm’s front-facing grazing fields off Sterling City Road, the market will be known as The Farmers Market at Tiffany Farms and will only include Connecticut farms, according to its organizer, Jennifer Tiffany — niece of John J. "Jack" Tiffany II, the farm’s late owner, who died in early 2018.
Featuring everything from vegetables to homemade jams, maple syrup to beef, the market will have a dozen participants, including both hyper-local operations such as Four Mile River Farm and Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm, and others from around the state, such as Dondero Orchards of Glastonbury and Sweet Pea Farm of North Granby, Jennifer Tiffany said.
“Nothing will be imported out of state. There will be no crafts. No flea market. No music. It will just be farmers helping farmers,” Jennifer said.
“This is an effort to try to bring some life and vitality back to the farm,” she said.
Jennifer, her husband, Bill Hurtle, a microbiologist, and her daughter Lisa Simiola, a nursing student, thought up the market earlier this year after successfully selling hundreds of handmade flower bundles from a farmside road stand last summer.
“The history of this farm runs so deep, and it's suffered so many sad things over the years,” Jennifer said. “It’s like we needed to keep the story going, and this new page is going to be a part of it. It’s like jumping back into the book, if you will. Jumping back into the story of the farm.”
A difficult past
Tiffany Farms dates back to the 1700s and has been in the Tiffany family since 1848, according to The Day's archives. Having functioned as a long-standing dairy farm, the now 100-acre farm, according to farm head John J. Tiffany III — son of Jack Tiffany — now only raises beef cows after it was forced, due to financial constraints, to sell off all its 65 milking cows, as well as 40 heifers, in September 2017.
As part of its difficult history, the farm has undergone everything from at least two devastating fires — as in 2010, when one fire ripped through a 200-year-old cow and hay barn — to the toppling of one of its grain silos in November 2017. That silo, which stood at 80 feet and was three-quarters full with corn, collapsed onto an abutting milking facility and barn, destroying both.
When farm owner Jack Tiffany died shortly after that accident in January 2018, Jennifer said it felt like a culmination to the devastation.
But it was also a re-unifying force for the family.
Having not visited the farm since her father’s untimely death in 1980 — though she grew up there — Jennifer said she and the family were determined, in the wake of her uncle’s death, to help revitalize the farm.
“I felt at that point they really needed me and that I needed to step up for them,” Jennifer said.
“It was just time to let go of the past and the hardships, and move through it,” Lisa Simiola added.
As part of revitalizing the farm, Jennifer said, she and the Tiffany family spent months cleaning up cluttered fields as well as the fallen grain silo.
But even after the cleanup, Jennifer Tiffany said she felt she still needed to bring an added dose of “life and vitality” back to the farm. So she and her husband, Bill — “who is an avid gardener” — with the help of Lisa, laid down an eighth-of-an-acre plot on the farm, and started planting and selling bundles of flowers for $5.
Hand-arranged by Jennifer, the bundles would include flowers such as zinnias, asters, snap dragons, marigolds, gladiolas and sunflowers, as well as “some stuff I can’t even pronounce,” Bill said, laughing.
Displaying the arrangements in a "nostalgic silage" cart on the side of the road by the farm’s property and sold through an honor system, Jennifer said the flowers were a hit with those who drive by the farm.
“It was like, we’ll just try this idea. And all of a sudden, it just blew up and we were out of flowers,” Jennifer said, explaining she sold nearly 1,000 arrangements over the course of the summer. “I would watch people stop and take a photo of themselves holding the sunflowers with the farm in the background, and it just warmed my heart to see that.”
With the success of last summer in mind, Jennifer said she wanted to expand the idea through the longstanding Lyme Farmers Market. But after learning that the market, which was held at Lyme’s Ashlawn Farm, would not continue this summer after the death of Ashlawn Farm steward Chip Dahlke, Jennifer said she took it as a sign.
“We just both looked at each other,” Jennifer said, glancing over at her husband. “And we said, ‘Oh my God, this would be a really wonderful opportunity for the farm.’”
Stepping in to speak for her mother, Lisa explained the farm's comeback is also meant to be message to the community: “That we can come back from despair.”
“People will always come up to me and say, ‘What’s going on with the farm?’” Lisa said. “It’s all whisper whisper. But we don’t have to whisper anymore. We are not hiding anymore. This is what we are doing, and we want you to come and join.”
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