Tag Archives: Sport Hill Farm

Westport Favorite Is Farmer Of The Year

The Westport Farmers’ Market is proud of its many vendors. They sell honey, ice cream, tamales and pizza, along with the usual (and delicious) fruits, vegetables and meats.

Today they’re particularly proud of one.

Patti Popp has just been named 2017 Farmer of the Year.

That’s not some silly online poll. The honor comes from the Farmers’ Almanac and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Popp is one of 3 outstanding farmers or ranchers throughout the country — and the only woman. All were chosen for their support of the farming tradition; innovation in agriculture; community involvement, and inspiration as an agricultural leader.

Popp grows produce, and raises chickens and pigs, at Sport Hill Farm in Easton. She operates a community-supported agriculture program, and a retail store sellling locally grown and crafted goods.

Patti Popp and friends.

In the summer Sport Hill Farm sponsors a children’s camp. She hosts other events throughout the year, including farm-to-table dinners and workshops.

Popp calls herself an “accidental farmer.” In 2000 she and her husband purchased a home with enough property to grow vegetables and raise chickens.

They learned to farm by trial and error — reading books, and asking questions of other farmers.

Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran-Dougall says, “Not only does Patti grow some of the choicest food in the area, she gives of herself to the community in an unparalleled way.

“We always count on Patti to dig in when we need anything — from offering fresh food, to partnering with local chefs, to volunteering for events that help folks make a connection between the farm and our food system.”

You can see the national Farmer of the Year at the Westport market on Imperial Avenue every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., now through November 9.

Guerric Forges Ahead

Deep in the Westport woods — just north of the Merritt Parkway — stands a forge.

There a blacksmith tends a fire, creating knives, door hinges and other implements out of iron.

The blacksmith is not some old man, holding on to a lost art passed down through many generations.

No; Guerric Vornle von Haagenfels taught himself everything he needs to know about blacksmithing.

Even more remarkably, Guerric is a Staples High School senior.

Guerric Vornle von Haagenfels, in the woods near his forge.

Guerric Vornle von Haagenfels, in the woods near his forge.

Three years ago, as a freshman, he fell in love with woodworking. He took every tech ed (nee “shop”) course Staples offered, then did an independent study. This year he earned a fine arts award for a rocking chair he designed and built.

Three years ago Guerric — a Troop 100 Eagle Scout was was always fascinated by knives — took what seemed a natural step: working with metal.

The first steps...

The first steps…

“All you need is to feel confident with your hands,” he says, while stoking his fire and twisting red-hot iron.

“It’s not hard to figure out. You can learn anything on the internet. You just need a forge and an anvil.”

Guerric makes 7- and 8-inch knives, along with barbecue forks, a door knocker and (he’s promised me) an iron soccer ball for my desk. He gives them away as gifts, to friends and his very large family.

Friends provide much of his scrap metal. He also finds some at the free section of the dump, and occasionally buys metal bars at Home Depot. He was amazed to find a huge pipe on his own property, but could not use it. “Galvanized steel emits toxic fumes,” he explains.

While some blacksmiths use expensive propane forges, Guerric built his own coal forge from a drum. “It’s primitive, but it serves me well,” he says.

It’s just one ridge over from Charcoal Hill Road — where, more than a century ago, charcoal was made.

Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

Guerric says, “I like working hard. It’s cool at the end to see what I’ve created. And I see progress — I can always improve.”

Blacksmithing will probably not be Guerric’s career. Neither will rugby or skiing, both of which he competed in at Staples. Nor will agriculture, though he’s spending his senior internship at Sport Hill Farm in Easton.

This fall, Guerric heads to Lehigh University. He’ll study engineering; exactly what type, he’s  not sure. “College will be a completely new experience,” he says. “I’m open to anything.”

Spoken with the open mind, adventurous spirit and remarkable creativity of a teenage Westport blacksmith.

Guerric Vornle von Haagenfels, hard at work...

Guerric Vornle von Haagenfels, hard at work…

...and tending the fire.

…and tending the fire.

4th Grade Farmer

Many Westport 4th graders want to be firemen or astronauts.  Some may dream of playing Staples soccer.

One wants to be a farmer.

Charlie Colasurdo attends Kings Highway Elementary School.  His fame has already spread all the way to Fairfield, where he was featured on the Fairfield Green Food Guide blog, in a story and photos by Analiese Paik.

He recently spent 6 weeks preparing a multimedia presentation for his class about local farms, and their importance to the community.  He first asked his classmates if they knew where their food came from.  (I’m assuming many said “Trader Joe’s.”)

Charlie discussed the history of farming — he really knows his onions — and then talked about Community Supported Agriculture.

Charlie and organic farmer Patti Popp

Charlie’s mentor is Patti Popp, owner of Sport Hill Farm in Easton who hosts dozens of children each year in a summer farm camp. Charlie has attended the camp for 2 years, after a great experience at Shelburne Farms in Vermont.

Charlie suggested that Kings Highway develop a school garden, like Staples and Green’s Farms Academy.  It could be used for science class — and in the cafeteria.  (A classmate piped up, “Cafeteria food isn’t healthy.  I don’t like it” — prompting a roar of approval.)

Charlie was peppered with questions  His favorite farm animal is chickens (“they give you eggs every day”), while harvesting cauliflower is hard because the heads are twisted in the ground.

The Fairfield Green Food Guide blog did not mention whether Charlie — and his special guest, Patti Popp — brought in zucchini or broccoli for the class to sample.  It’s a good bet, though, there were no cupcakes.