Hilltown Voices: Putting horsepower to work at Williamsburg farm, R.H. Conwell School staff, Plainfield open house, Chesterfield picnic

Last modified: Monday, June 29, 2015

On Valley View Farm, horsepower is not a term that defines engine strength. On the contrary, it refers to two, robust 10 year-old Belgian Brabant draft horses named Lynne and Clyde that are being used to plow and hay the farm fields at 16 Walpole Road in Williamsburg.

“I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think we are the only farm in Williamsburg to exclusively use draft horses on our vegetable field,” owner Sue Fortgang said.

This is the first year for a vegetable garden at the farm.

Fortgang and her husband David Nehring own the 100-acre property that has been a working farm to varying degrees for centuries. They slowly have been reviving the property, replanting orchards and fields, refurbishing antique farm equipment and relocating from Mount Holyoke College to the farm a 100-year-old, post-and-beam barn built by William Skinner and scheduled for demolition.

Valley View Farm produces hay, pumpkins, maple sugar, apples, peaches, and as of the second week in June, chemical-free vegetables grown in a garden that master vegetable farmer, teamster and the couple’s business partner Tom Coughlin said is “totally off limits to tractors.”

“I enjoy using horses, I don’t really like tractors,” Coughlin said. “This is great from an environmental perspective, because it uses no petroleum. I can also harvest the hay using the horses, which then feeds them through the winter, and I use their manure as fertilizer. It is a nice closed system.”

Only 1¼ acres are currently planted for vegetables, but Coughlin said he hopes to expand that to 1½ or two acres.

“It’s really the perfect size for this,” he said. “I’m not interested in speed and quantity. I am interested in the quality of the food and the process.”

While Lynne and Clyde are the only horsepower authorized on the vegetable field, Coughlin said right now they share the haying and other plowing duties with Nehring and his tractor.

The farm stand now is offering spring vegetables such as arugula, spinach, peas, lettuce and bok choy. Coughlin said later in the year there will be corn, tomatoes, beans and a variety of other seasonal vegetables.

“We had a slow start but now that we’ve got some rain, things are going great,” Coughlin added.

Fortgang said she recently obtained a farm winery license and eventually grapes will be grown for wine. Hops are also on the list of new items to be grown at the farm.

The farm stand at Valley Farm is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Conwell School staff

The Worthington School District recently announced that R.H. Conwell Elementary School Principal Gretchen Morse-Dobosz has hired an administrative assistant, four classroom teachers, a nurse and a full-time special education teacher.

School Committee Chairman John McDonald said it is exciting to see the staff coming together at the new elementary school that is scheduled to open its doors for the first day of school Aug. 31.

The recently hired staff are administrative assistant Gail Bergeron, kindergarten teacher Grace Ahrensdorf, first and second grade teacher Chris Cleland, third and fourth grade teacher Kim Orzechowski, fifth and sixth grade teacher Rachel Appell, special education teacher Emily Lak and school nurse Rhonda Patrick.

According to McDonald, the school still needs to hire a pre-school teacher and three paraprofessionals.

There are about 30 students enrolled at the school.

The School Committee meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the R.H. Conwell School office.


Plainfield open house

The Plainfield Historical Society invites the public to join it in welcoming Matt Stowell to the community as the new owner of a historic home that was the only general store in Plainfield from 1820 until the 1890s.

Stowell’s connection to the property goes back to the 19th century when his ancestors conducted business at the store.

The house, on the corner of Main and Central Streets, also is one of five original buildings made from Plainfield bricks.

The event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. July 5 at 278 East Main St.

For further information and to RSVP, contact Judy Williams at 634-8099 or judithbryanwilliams@verizon.net.


Chesterfield COA picnic

The Chesterfield Council on Aging will host its annual picnic at noon Monday in the Chesterfield Community Center at 400 Main Road.

The Northampton Elks will serve hamburgers and hot dogs, and potluck desserts are welcome.

The Horse Mountain Jazz Band will provide entertainment. All are welcome.

Ideas for this column about life in the Hilltowns can be sent to Fran Ryan at Fryan.gazette@gmail.com.


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