More than 40 years ago, John and Lynn Holbrook purchased 12 acres of land in Bethel, Connecticut to open their very own family farm. With a mere 2 acres available for farming, the Holbrooks were tasked with maximizing space while remaining environmentally friendly. The rest is history.
While the Holbrooks still own the spectacular farmland, as of this past March, four new faces have joined the farming family. Jeff Taibe, Stephanie Sweeney, and Sean and Erin Reilly decided to tackle the business side of things when the previous tenant opted not to renew her lease. With Taibe and Sweeney owning their restaurant, Taproot, and the Reilly’s owning the Redding Roadhouse, the four decided to merge the Bethel and Redding communities with Holbrook Farm as their link.
In addition to Taproot and the Redding Roadhouse, Taibe detailed that approximately 10 to 15 nearby restaurants truly practice the local movement and utilize Holbrook’s produce to accomplish that mission. Simply Delicious catering, Sugar & Olives, and Graybarns in Norwalk, as well as Jesup Hall, the Whelk, and Kawa Ni in Westport are just a few local restaurants that Holbrook sells produce to as of now. Pushing that 10 restaurant connection to around 30 to 40 is just one objective the four hope to accomplish in the near future, something Taibe says can be made possible now that the sun is starting to shine here in Connecticut.
By establishing these connections to Holbrook Farms, the current restaurants that the farm supplies are the lucky recipients of a variety of fresh produce. Holbrook has been known for their tomatoes, beets and asparagus. Radishes are another vegetable that the farm has been renowned for in years past, so much so that Taibe has been encouraged to increase their amount. Still, Taibe says more time in business will allow the management team to discover which types of produce are in high demand from their buyers.
“We're going to kind of find our groove,” Taibe said. “That's one thing that we want to figure out aside from what John [Holbrook] was doing in the past: figuring out what chefs want.”
The new team seeks to maintain the traditional practices that the Holbrooks have established over the past 40 years, but also hope to implement new initiatives to further reach the local community through their work. Sweeney says they want to continue farm dinners as they have in the past, but would also like to begin new activities such as yoga classes or flower arranging events at the farm in the near future.
“At the moment, we're continuing with basically everything they've done here,” Sweeney said. “Eventually, what we'd like to do is take the market and form it into a cafe. We’d like to change that structure a little bit...so there's a little bit of a destination.”
Now that the four have the first couple of months in business under their belts, Taibe sees more potential opportunities for additional methods of selling Holbrook’s produce to the public. One of their next steps is creating grab-and-go prepared meals, as Taibe recognizes the trend of people not having time to cook meals.
Another focus the team has is maintaining the sustainable practices that Holbrook Farm has been known for since its very first days in business. Eliminating extra waste in any way possible, including feeding veggie scraps from restaurants to their chickens, helps make that objective possible.
“A main goal of ours is that we’re trying to have little to no waste basically coming from here,” Sweeney said. “So, if there are greens that have been wilted or just don't look beautiful, then they're being used in some other form.”
In addition to remaining ecologically responsible, Erin Reilly expanded on embracing the importance of promoting local farming to the local community and beyond.
“For us, it was important to keep local farming alive,” Erin Reilly said. “Not everybody does it. It's hard. Our main goal right now is preservation, and bringing everybody together. That's something that I think that a community can really band around because it matters. If we can all come together with a purpose in a beautiful place, I think there's nothing really better than that.”
While Taibe and his three partners have just begun their journey in managing this historic Bethel farm, the message they seek to convey to the community around them is clear. Keeping several traditions alive while implementing new projects appears to be their key to accomplishing the ambitions ahead of them.
“[Our main goal] is focusing on understanding food and understanding why it's important to buy from local farms as opposed to big branded grocery stores,” Taibe said. “It's not necessarily eating healthy, it's just knowing that there's no pesticides, there's no chemicals. It's just a healthier form of living. That’s what we believe in in our restaurants: trying to do things the right way and trying to get that out to as many people as we can.”
Holbrook Farm 45 Turkey Plain Rd, Bethel, CT 06801