Tag Archives: Belta’s Farm

Belta’s Farm Subdivision Preserves Open Space

It’s one of Westport’s best-kept secrets: a working farm a few yards from the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

Since 1946, 4 generations of Beltas have worked the land. Gone are the poultry,  livestock and slaughterhouse. The farm no longer supplies Stew Leonard’s with a ton of tomatoes a day, as it did in the 1970s.

An aerial view of Belta’s Farm from several years ago shows fields, greenhouses, a compost pile (near the top), and two homes (bottom).

But for over 70 years the Beltas have been good neighbors — and great providers of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers to the neighborhood, plus any other Westporters savvy enough to stop at their stand.

Belta’s Farm Stand, right on the road.

Last week, the Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved a plan to subdivide Belta’s Farm into 9 building lots.

The 23-acre site will be developed as an Open Space subdivision. P&Z regulations permit a reduction in lot size, in exchange for land used as open space.

The open space set-aside totals almost 5 acres of the site. Two of the newly approved building lots will be retained by the Belta family, along with existing residential structures.

A proposed new Beltas Farm Road — without an apostrophe, at the request of emergency services — will extend nearly 1,000 feet from Bayberry Lane. It will be served by 2 fire hydrants, and landscaped with 20 shade trees.

The 23-acre Belta’s Farm, at 126 and 128 Bayberry Lane, is outlined in red. Bayberyy, (dark on the left), is partially obscured by trees.

An earlier subdivision plan was denied by P&Z in 2019. It proposed more dwelling units per acre than currently allowed, an agriculture site for farming in lieu of open space, and a seasonal farm stand.

The Belta siblings said, “As we transition to the enjoyment of our retirement years, the time has come to provide for a zoning-compliant and environmentally sensitive development of our property for single family homes.

“We could not be happier with this outcome. It will provide almost 5 acres of open space and conservation easements on over 2 additional acres of the property.

“Our family plans to retain 2 lots for our use. We are very pleased about this. It is good to know that the Beltas can remain a presence on the property and in Westport, as we have for over three-quarters of a century.”

There is no timetable yet for site development.

Connie and Greg Belta, in the field in 2013.

Roundup: Real Estate, Eggs, Floods, More

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Just how hot was last year’s real estate market?

  • 2020 sales were up 76%, compared to 2019.
  • Average sales price versus list price is up 10%.
  • Average days on market is down 30%.
  • And the January 2021 inventory is down 45%, compared to January 2020.

That’s as crazy as GameStop. (Hat tip: Judy Michaelis)

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Ally Lipton McArthur grew up here. For the past 15 years she has owned and operated Herb-n-Peach, a catering/event planning company in New York.

She and her husband moved back to the area in June. She’s expanding her business locally.

Ally’s mother (Marilynn Blotner) and sister (Stacey Lipton Schumer) own Soleil Toile, the popular lingerie/swimwear stores in Westport and New Canaan.

All 3 have pivoted their businesses during COVID. While brainstorming ways to incorporate something delicious (“the best chocolate chip cookies ever”) and wearable (lingerie), they hit upon a Valentine’s Day idea.

“Treat yourself — and share with a loved one!” they say.

Their “Valentines Share the Love Box” of sweets, love and undies includes 2 Hanky Panky (regular rise) one-sized thongs in curated Valentine colors, plus 6 scrumptious herb-n-peach chocolate chip cookies (milk chocolate, white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chip).

Click here to order online ($55) by Wednesday, February 10. Boxes will be available for pickup at Soleil Toile’s 2 locations. They can also be shipped ($12). For free local delivery, email ally@herbnpeach.com.

You can also buy at Soleil Toile on the weekend of February 13-14 (until the treats run out).

As for “sharing the love”: 10% of all sales go to Pink Aid.

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For decades, the Belta family has taken care of Westporters. Their Bayberry Lane farm is a treasured, wonderful (and under-rated) source for fresh produce.

The Beltas take care of more than just humans. Yesterday — when the temperature barely nudged 20 — John Karrel saw this sign:

(Photo/John Karrel)

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Saugatuck Island is a glorious place to live.

But nowhere is perfect. Residents put up with regular flooding.

The canal overflows when it rains. Occasionally it takes only a sprinkle.

Sometimes — as islanders saw yesterday, when the weather was perfectly fine all over town — all it takes is a full moon and high tide.

(Photo/Les Dinkin)

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And finally … on this day in 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. It was ratified less than a year later, on December 6.

Beltas’ Plan: Keep Part Of Family Farm

Five years ago, I wrote about Belta’s Farm.

My story began:

Bayberry Lane is like many Westport streets. There’s a mix of homes: handsome converted barns; stately Colonials; 1950s split-levels; modern, multi-gabled McMansions.

Nothing — not a sign or a peek through the trees — indicates that the driveway at #128 leads to a 23–plus-acre farm.

It could be Westport’s best-kept secret: There’s a working farm a few yards from the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

Four generations of Beltas — the farm’s founding family — live there. Dina is the widow of Jimmy Belta, who first farmed the land in 1946. Greg is her son. His children and grandchildren are there too.

How much longer, though, is uncertain.

An aerial view of Belta’s Farm from several years ago shows fields, greenhouses, a compost pile (near the top), and the family’s two homes (bottom).

Five years later, the farm — which has supplied Stew Leonard’s for decades, and since 2012 offers fresh produce and eggs through Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions — has edged closer to its next chapter.

The Belta family cares deeply for its farm, and the neighborhood. As Westport — and their lives — change, they’ve worked hard to come up with a plan they believe will enhance the area, while helping settle their patriarch’s estate.

On July 26, they’ll present a proposal for a text amendment to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

They hope to create an Agricultural Heritage Overlay District. It will enable them to build 9 single-family homes, on 1-acre lots — and retain 8 acres of the property for use as a working farm.

Four generations of Beltas would be able to stay on the land.

A site plan for the proposed Agricultural Heritage Overlay District.

Over the years — especially after the death of Jimmy Belta in 2012 at age 88 (a farmer to the end) — many developers have approached the family. Each time, they said no. The plans were not in keeping with the Beltas’ concept for the future of their farm and homestead.

The Agricultural Heritage Overlay District would, they say:

  • Allow the family to retain its 2 primary residences, both over 50 years old
  • Retain 8 acres of rich farm land in perpetuity, growing the same amount of produce as they currently sell at their farm stand
  • Develop 9 additional building lots that complement the farm property
  • Provide a buffer area with neighboring properties, and preserve the farm’s natural beauty.

Current zoning regulations permit 2-acre lot subdivisions. So they could sell the entire property, to be filled completely with homes.

The Beltas’ say their proposal is “a unique land use concept that will enhance the surrounding neighborhood.”

Belta’s Farm Stand provides great produce to Bayberry Lane and beyond.

For over 70 years, the Beltas have been good neighbors — and great providers of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to Bayberry Lane and beyond.

They no longer raise poultry and livestock there. The slaughterhouse is gone. Times change.

This time, they’re asking the town to help them move forward.

Without leaving their farm behind.

The greenhouse and outbuildings, today.

 

Belta’s Farm: Bayberry’s Hidden Bounty

Bayberry Lane is like many Westport streets. There’s a mix of homes: handsome converted barns; stately Colonials; 1950s split-levels; modern, multi-gabled McMansions.

Nothing — not a sign or a peek through the trees — indicates that the driveway at #128 leads to a 28-acre farm.

It could be Westport’s best-kept secret: There’s a working farm a few yards from the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

An aerial view of Belta's Farm from several years ago shows fields, greenhouses, a compost pile (near the top), and two homes (bottom).

An aerial view of Belta’s Farm from several years ago shows fields, nurseries, a compost pile (near the top), and two homes (bottom).

Four generations of Beltas — the farm’s founding family — live there. Dina is the widow of Jimmy Belta, who first farmed the land in 1946. Greg is her son. His children and grandchildren are there too.

How much longer, though, is uncertain.

The other day Greg took time out from his 7-days-a-week, 1-man farming operation to talk about Belta’s Farm. He was joined by his sister Connie. (There’s a 3rd brother, also named Jimmy; a 4th sibling died not long ago.)

Connie and Greg Belta, in the field.

Connie Caruso and Greg Belta, in the field.

Greg and Connie are very proud of the farm. It’s one of the few remaining in Westport. (Others include 10 acres owned by the Stahurskys on North Maple; the 12-acre Kowalsky farm on South Turkey Hill, and 17 acres not far away on Bayberry, formerly owned by the Pabst family and now worked by recent college grads.)

Jimmy Belta’s parents had a small truck farm in Norwalk. After being discharged from his World War II service, James found the Bayberry Lane site, thanks to Leo Nevas. The Westport attorney also helped Jimmy buy the place from Evelyn Gosnell, a silent film star who raised potatoes there.

For several decades, it thrived. Jimmy raised tens of thousands of chickens and turkeys. He had a slaughterhouse in back.

The greenhouse and outbuildings, today.

Nurseries and outbuildings, today.

In the 1960s he joined forces with Stew Leonard’s. Jimmy supplied the store with a ton of tomatoes — a day. They were prominently displayed, as the product of a local farmer.

“That consumed the farm,” Greg says.

Jimmy also grew basil, garlic and flowers. But in 2005 — slowing down a bit — he closed the wholesale business.

An easel tells CSA customers what to pick up each week.

An easel tells CSA customers what to pick up each week.

Today, Greg — who graduated from Staples in 1967, 2 years after Connie — runs the farm primarily as a CSA (community-supported agriculture). 80 families pay $500 a year for the right to pick up a variety of produce each week.

The crate is always different. Greg grows eggplant, cantaloupes, peppers, carrots, kale, lettuce, radishes, onions, beets, arugula, mint, basil and flowers — and much more. His 125 chickens lay plenty of eggs.

Greg’s daughters help run the CSA. But both are teachers — not full-time farmers.

The retail business continues, in a way. Every Friday and Saturday (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), the Beltas pitch a tent on Bayberry Lane. They sell fresh vegetables, eggs, preserves and the like from Belta’s Farm Stand.

Belta's Farm Stand -- open Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Belta’s Farm Stand — open Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

As sustainable a farmer as Greg is though, he’s not sure how much longer he can sustain Belta’s Farm.

His father died in early 2012, age 88. He farmed to the end.

Greg is trying to make a go of it himself. It’s not easy.

The land includes 18 tillable acres. The soil is “fantastic,” Greg says. (When the Community Garden began near Long Lots School, Jimmy donated soil for it.) There is room for fruit trees, and animal pens.

“It’s rich in every bounty,” Greg says. “It has great potential.”

But, he adds, “Farming takes a lot of hard work.”

A few of the 125 chickens at Belta's Farm.

A few of the 125 chickens at Belta’s Farm.

Greg and Connie would hate to see the topsoil lost, the land plundered. It’s zoned for 2-acre housing; if it were sold as a farm, or for some other non-residential use, it would have to be as an entire piece.

The future of Belta’s Farm is uncertain.

Meanwhile, Greg puts his shovel in the ground every day. By himself.

On a farm that’s been here — and in his family — for nearly 70 years.

And which most Westporters have no idea even exists.