CONTACT:                                                                                  July 23, 2014

Steve Jensen


860-983-3556- cell


     This article appeared in the July 23, 2014 edition of the CT Weekly Agricultural Report

By Steve Jensen, Office of DoAg Cmsr. Steven K. Reviczky


George Schuster doesn’t call himself a farmer, but one would be hard pressed to find someone more passionate about protecting farmland – including the centuries-old farm in Goshen where he was raised and still lives.


The 51-acre property along a high, open ridge has been farmed since at least the late 1700s, when it was owned by Revolutionary War Capt. John Buell. Schuster – a well-known preservation advocate in the area - conveyed its development rights to the state in 1990 to ensure it remained in agricultural production.     


“Things have two values – a dollar value and a real value,” he said while walking the farm last week. “This is just about perfect farmland. I love this property, and I didn’t want to ever see houses here.”


Schuster’s farm is one of 300 protected under the Dept. of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program – a milestone that will be marked by a Farmland Preservation Celebration Sept. 20 on the Lebanon Green. All farm families who have participated in the program are invited to the free event, as is the public.


Plans include a bus tour of local protected farms, hay rides, a photo display and other exhibits featuring preserved farms, as well as live music, square dancing, children’s activities and food prepared on site by a variety of chefs specializing in farm-to-table cooking. 

“Keeping our working lands in agricultural production is one of Connecticut’s highest priorities,” said DoAg Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky, who was a property agent in the preservation program for eight years. “Protecting 300 farms since the program was created in 1978 is a remarkable achievement that not only should be commemorated, but should inspire all of us to commit to building on that success.”


The mile-long Lebanon Green was chosen for the event because of its uniqueness and its proximity to nearly three dozen preserved farms in town – the most of any Connecticut community. Families who participated in the preservation program will soon receive formal invitations to the event, scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  


Across the state in Goshen, the Schuster farm is one of a cluster of protected properties in town, including the Breakell, Cunningham, Gray, Perkins, Thorn, Vaill and Vonder farms.  


Schuster’s farm has been in his family since his grandparents, Wolf and Louise, bought it on Aug. 20, 1914.  More than 100 invited guests will join him in marking the farm’s Centennial with a barbecue there next month.


Schuster loves to recite the farm’s history, which he believes dates to the days when Native Americans raised crops there. Capt. Buell built the original 25-by-25-foot “dwelling house” in 1778, and a second of matching size was later attached to the first.

Those spaces still form the core of the farmhouse where Schuster lives.


From 1850 to 1909 the property was known as Shady Lawn Farm. Schuster’s grandparents bought the place after emigrating from Germany, taking out a $2,275 mortgage calling for monthly payments of $100.


They raised dairy cows and pigs and grew an assortment of vegetables and fruits, including pears from a grove of enormous trees that are still producing today. 


Schuster’s father, Herman, took the farm over in 1946, after returning from serving in Europe during World War II. He also ran a diversified farm business that included keeping a flock of about a thousand laying hens and raising rabbits for meat that he mainly sold to workers at the brass mills in Torrington.


“He did everything he had to do to make ends meet,” Schuster recalled.   


Since the mid-1960s, the fields have been leased to local dairy farmer Anthony Damiani, who raises hay for his herd.

Schuster, a retired carpenter, said he always enjoyed helping out at the farm and tending to the property, but never considered himself a farmer.


Over the years he has restored several of the barns and other outbuildings, including some that he says date to the 1700s. The roof beam in one of the barns is a single, 36-foot-long piece of Chestnut cut from a tree on the property. 


He believes a shed where he now stores tools was once a tiny schoolhouse moved from its original location down the road.  


“A farmer I am not,’ he said with a laugh. “It’s not in my blood. But this is where I was as a kid, this is my home and this is how it is going to stay,” he said. “This is how Goshen used to be.”


His dedication to maintaining agricultural integrity is also what led him to be among the founding members of the town’s Agricultural Council. That effort was prompted by what he saw as an increasing need to foster harmony between farmers and new residents as the town grew.


More specifically, he said a resident’s complaint about the smell of manure being spread at a nearby farm was the impetus for passage of a farm ordinance in 2011 that makes provisions for such practices to continue in residential areas.


Schuster also is a founder of the Friends of Goshen Agriculture, a private group whose goals include raising funds to obtain matching grants to purchase and preserve farmland in the area.


George Malia, a Goshen resident who works with Farm Credit East, said Schuster’s leadership in farmland preservation is helping to solidify the future of agriculture in the region.          


“George has been the driving force in Goshen’s efforts not only to promote farmland preservation,” Malia said, “but to improve the viability of all the remaining farms in town and across Litchfield County.”