Sport Hill Farm: Caring for the Land & the Community

Jessica Ryan

Sustainable, seasonal, local, organic, and green might be popular phrases these days among the media and the masses, but to those who truly care about where their food comes from, whether they contain pesticides and want to support their communities, these are very powerful words indeed. By buying locally, seasonally and organically, the consumer never has to worry about food recalls. More importantly, the consumers know not only where their food comes from, but get to know their farmers by name. These are the people who also truly care about the future of their children and of children for generations to come… These are the people who truly care about preserving the world around them.

Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm is just this type of person. When she moved to Easton with her husband in 1997 she never imagined that she her path would lead her to where she is today. She never imagined that she would own and run the successful Sport Hill Farm, located in Easton on the road bearing the same name. “I was a girly-girl,” Patti explained.  “I liked to get my nails done!” She kidded with me, motioning with her hands, the dirt from hard work clearly visible.  “I knew nothing at all about farming!” She continued to explain that her father had a lovely garden and she would help out on occasion, but that was the extent of it.

After the birth of her second child she needed to figure out how she could work while caring for two young children. (Her mother was agreeable to watching one young child, but two?!!) When she and her husband acquired the property next door they then decided to try their hand at farming. Her husband, who runs a successful Landscape Architect business, had the equipment necessary to clear the land. They took their time and started out small, focusing on zucchini and lettuces.

 “Farming is a very hands-on business. You have to learn on your own,”

Patti told me. Organic farming presents challenges that your average farm doesn’t. Each year is different, Patti explains.

“Mother Nature is always challenging us!” 

Today Sport Hill Farm grows and offers much more than just lettuce and zucchini. They have expanded to two other locations; one on the property in front of Samuel Staples Elementary School where approximately 4 acres are leased from the town and the other 10 acres are at Maple Row. 

This past summer, while ideal for that love the great outdoors, was a challenge. The long, hot days and lack of rain was hard on the crops. The farm on Sport Hill has an irrigation system, but the fields at Maple Row and at Samuel Staples Elementary School have none. Through the generosity of Sal Gilbertie’s Herb Farm, and his 500 gallon water tank, the vegetables did well. Patti is eternally thankful to Gilbertie whom, in addition to helping her out, has taken the time over the years to teach her a great deal.  “There is no irrigation system over at Maple Row either. It’s a miracle the tomatoes did so well,” Patti explains. “We covered them up at night and the condensation and moisture from the dew and the rains must have stayed trapped, preserving all of our tomatoes. Either that or I had a guardian angel watching over me!” 

Luck may be a part of it, but the benefits of her hard work have certainly paid off. She grew her business slowly, so as not to get overwhelmed, and intelligently. Sport Hill Farm started its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program 4 years ago with 20 families. There are now 110 members and this number continues to grow. Patti assures me “everything you buy through our CSA is grown on our farm.” The CSA program runs 21 weeks, from June through October.

Around the time she started her CSA program a friendship and partnership with The Unquowa School just down the road in Fairfield was being cultivated. She supplies most of their produce, provides field experiences for all the children from preschool through the 8th grade and teaches the students during the summer as part of the Unquowa School’s Farm Camp program.  Other schools have started to take notice. Patti now works with a great many schools in nearby towns as well as with groups of home-schooled children. Samuel Staples High School in Westport, has an internship program and Patti has been working with interns from Staples (HS) for the past few years.  “These kids work really hard. And I love that these kids truly want to learn and see what farming is all about.” Patti explained.

“I really hope that all this interest in organic farming isn’t just a trend but is really here to stay.”

Patti says. She wants to be sure people aren’t caught up in the excitement of the organic farming, but truly thinking about the future.

This past spring a new building went up on the property. The barn, which also serves as the retail store, is open to the public daily, except for Wednesdays, from late spring until just after Thanksgiving. All her produce is easily accessible and beautifully arranged.  Tomatoes, peppers, onions, leeks, various squashes, various potatoes and corn are beautifully displayed. She also has various local cheeses, breads, cereals and honey from local vendors. 

For more information on her farm, farm camp and events open to the public be sure to visit the Sport Hill Farm Website.