A wealth of Newtown history lies in the farm fields and dairy farms that once populated acres of the community. Generations of families worked the land, but an economy that leaned ever more away from the hands of the farmer eventually eroded or left fallow fields of rustling cornstalks, grazing cattle, and freshly tilled soil. There exists now, though, the opportunity to preserve one piece of Newtown’s agricultural history — but the clock is ticking.
In November, local builder Greg Carnrick purchased the Cherry Grove Farm property, farmed since the days of the Revolution, at the intersection of Platt’s Hill, Beaver Dam, Palestine, and Hundred Acres Roads. The homestead of the Mayer family since 1912, Cherry Grove Farm has been a faithful servant to the farming community, only waning with the passing of Eleanor Mayer, the last to farm the land. Approached many times to sell the acreage for development, until her death in 2013 Mrs Mayer eschewed the offers, believing in the life force of the rolling meadows and woods that were home to sheep, cattle, cows, bees, and Christmas trees for decades.
Fortunately, Mr Carnrick sees the value in preserving the farm as a historic site. The Newtown native’s vision for the property includes public trails for riding and hiking and the repurposing of the buildings to create a future for the farm that enhances any development on adjacent acres, and respects the history of Cherry Grove Farm.
He has entered into an agreement with Newtown Forest Association to sell nearly 30 acres to the organization; but all 45 acres that make up Cherry Grove Farm are destined for total development unless a proposition between Mr Carnrick and the NFA results in the procurement of $600,000 by the NFA to purchase that property — by mid-January. As of last week, donations had reached a respectable number, but not enough to bring it to the finish line.
Seeking to also see the farmhouse and immediate buildings restored, Mr Carnrick appears to be as hopeful as anyone that the large piece of the property surrounding the core of the farm could be preserved as open space by the NFA. The NFA campaign has less than two weeks remaining to reach its goal. After that, Mr Carnrick will need to tend to his business investment and move forward with plans that may or may not include another option for enhancing the open space in our town.
What makes Newtown stand out from the numerous towns in the vicinity is its rural appeal. It is farmland, and the active farms remaining, that create that sense of serenity to those passing through and for those who call Newtown home. Purchasing the Cherry Grove Farm acreage is a large investment on the part of NFA. The community must decide if it agrees that this is an investment in the future of Newtown’s character. As development swallows up large and small parcels of Newtown’s history, to let this opportunity slip away would be unfortunate.
Only if citizens swiftly step up to fund this effort will it be determined how much history is — or is not — valued in our town. Support the NFA purchase at Cherry Grove Farm; visit newtownforestassociation.org.