November 15, 2010|By MELISSA PIONZIO, firstname.lastname@example.org
HADDAM — — As the shearing season at Cold Goats Farm winds down, Vivienne McGarry is busy transforming the fleece and mohair produced by her sheep and angora goats into textiles for local knitters, spinners and fiber artists.
McGarry's animals, named after flowering herbs and spices such as vetch, edelweiss and cinnamon, provide her with a regular supply of product and a deep satisfaction in knowing they're helping her preserve her land and continue a farming tradition.
"There is such value in keeping farms and open space," said McGarry, who runs the 5-acre farm in the town's Haddam Neck section with her husband, Bob. "People need it as a de-stressor, whether It's going for a walk, a drive, a jog — whatever — I think it's a really important thing. Some people just don't understand the value of green space."
In a full-circle process, the McGarrys give as much back to the land as they take. By rotating the use of their fields, the soil is less stressed. The hay they feed their animals is purchased from a neighbor, who harvests it from his own fields. The couple stores it for winter use in the farm's sturdy 1850s-era barn, which they refurbished with a new roof and supportive beams.
"It's good for everybody to buy locally. It's less expensive for us. We can take it off the field when it's ready, so there's no middleman," she said. "And it keeps that hayfield as open space."
Their sheep and goats keep poison ivy, barberry, bittersweet and other invasive plants at bay and help fertilize the farm's garden beds. By breeding the goats with their neighbor's goats, adjoining land is used for grazing and offspring are produced.
"We have an arrangement," McGarry said of her neighbor, Mary Ellis. "She wants to keep her fields open and she enjoys the animals and we need to breed ours. We also use solar panels, which we put in her field because we can move them around."
Steven K. Reviczky, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, said people like the McGarrys may be one reason farming appears to be on the rise in the state.
"Our membership is growing again," Reviczky said. "It had gone through a period of decline and now we are a growing organization again. There is a renewed interest in local — where people are getting their food from, where people are getting other farm products from. People don't want their food and products traveling 1,500 miles to get to them."