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New volunteer-run farm store opens Sunday

North Stonington — The nonprofit veterans organization Better Together CT is opening a new farm store with a noon ribbon-cutting Sunday at 402 Norwich-Westerly Road.

The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut is hosting the grand opening of CWC Farm Store from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include a talk on veterans health care, a trail walk, PTSD workshop, wellness workshop and silent auction, with music by Rick "Rooster" Arrighi.

Dr. Stefana Pecher, a local medical practitioner who runs the nearby Country Wellness Center and helped start Better Together CT, said the store will feature local meats and cheeses, produce, bottled and canned foods, fudge, T-shirts and Native American arts and crafts, among other items. It will be staffed by volunteers. 

"We're partnering with veteran farmers," Pecher said Monday during a tour, adding there will be a big online component to the store.

The opening of the CWC Farm Store ("CWC" standing for Country Wellness Center) is one more step in Pecher's dream to re-integrate veterans into the community through "outreach and agriculture." The store will sell produce from the on-site organic farm that currently serves about three dozen veterans, as well as other items supplied by local farmers and artisans.

The 33-acre farm, which had been in the Kallen family for more than a century until Better Together purchased it two years ago, wasn't able to plant this year until July because of COVID-19. And with frost expected sometime soon, most of the produce has already been picked, though there are plans to install a greenhouse to be able to harvest in the winter as well.

During the season, Pecher said the farm planted beets, cilantro, corn, kale, tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, cucumbers, eggplant and melons, among other items. Much of it went to local restaurants. Workers this week also were harvesting hemp for the first time, which Pecher said is very time consuming.

"We've been so darn busy," she said. "Everything was done from seed — pretty much everything."

Pecher thanked a large cast of volunteers, including treasurer Nancy Hilton, secretary Carolyn Howell, animal rescuer Audre Ulmer, spiritual leader Aaron Athey, store manager Jonathan Fister, veterans outreach coordinator Tom Dorney and Jessica Morrisey, who is donating the greenhouse.

Chores consume volunteer time on the farm, including taking care of several horses used for therapy. More than three dozen chickens produce eggs for resale.

The property also contains a sweat lodge, Pecher said, though the farm's ability to use the structure for ceremonies was limited this year because of COVID. Mostly, she said, they held fire circles outside.

"After what we've all been through, being outside with nature has been very healing," Pecher said.

l.howard@theday.com

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