Young Farms in East Granby, CT
East Granby, CT
East Granby, CT - Large office parks and corporate headquarters line the road out to Young Farms in East Granby, CT. The lush Farmington valley, which was once a major tobacco-farming region, has in recent years become the home to many Hartford-area businesses due to its proximity to Bradley International Airport. Today, Dale and Torrie Young, the owners and operators of Young Farms, are the last full-time farmers in the area. The Youngs grow a diverse assortment of herbs and vegetables on their 80-acre farm, including many heirloom varieties, and also cultivate eight acres of the traditional local tobacco crop.
While other local farmers found selling their land to be more profitable than dealing with the uncertainties of growing tobacco, Dale and Torrie never considered leaving farming. Both grew up working on farms—Dale on Young Farms, which belonged to his uncle at the time, and Torrie in potato country in Presque Isle, Maine. Before the couple took over Young Farms from Dale’s now-retired uncle, they milked cows on a large dairy farm in western New York. Both are deeply committed to growing and producing food—in fact, Torrie says, if they retired, “it would be to New York where we could grow grapes.”
Young Farms has been continually successful due to the high quality and freshness of their produce. On a Sunday afternoon in July, a steady stream of visitors stopped by the farm stand for blue potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and of course sweet corn. Dale and Torrie have extremely high standards for what gets sold at the stand—for instance, no corn that is two days old. Their hard work pays off. “Everyone says this is the best,” Torrie says about their corn. “They could get it at the supermarket for 1.99 a dozen but they come here instead.”
Local markets and restaurants have also caught on to the better taste and superior freshness of Young Farms’ vegetables, and Kane’s Market, the Good Life Grill, New England Pizza, ABC Pizza, Max’s Oyster Bar, and Max a Mia all eagerly purchase whatever is in season. The Youngs also attend the Kent farmer’s market on Saturdays, and their farm stand is open from 3-6 on weekdays and 12-3 on Sundays between May and September.
While Dale and Torrie have been farming Young Farms for close to three decades, their farm stand is relatively new and has only been open for the past three years. Each year has been better than the next, and the Youngs find that local residents are thrilled to have a source of fresh food. “People say thank you for doing this,” Torrie says, and it’s easy to understand why. The Youngs offer many rare and unique heirloom vegetables, and happily explain to customers why they chose certain varieties and best to prepare them. For instance, on a recent visit, they had not just one kind of string beans available but a choice of rattlesnake pole beans, succotash, and Kentucky wonders. They refuse to grow genetically modified plants as they feel that GMOs are not only of inferior quality but also harmful to the environment.
In winter, the Youngs grow winter wheat and tap their maple trees for syrup, which is widely known to be the best-tasting in the area. In fact, Young Farms won the national blue ribbon for medium-golden maple syrup from the American Maple Syrup Council in 1997. Their winter wheat is harvested in spring and ground into flour right at the farm, as are corn grits and cornmeal. The grinding process avoids heating the wheat in order to keep the minerals and nutrients intact, and results in exceptionally fine, light flour that makes amazing pastries and cakes.
The Youngs’ flock of 55 hens is fed a homemade and homegrown mixture of non-GMO corn, wheat and salt, along with any vegetables are past their prime. Unsurprisingly, their eggs are jumbo-sized with bright orange yolks, and sell out quickly. Recently, the Youngs have also begun offering duck eggs, which are hard to find in stores and very popular due to their large, creamy yolks. As Torrie explains, “We try to always have something new and different to bring people in.”
Torrie credits the local food movement with encouraging people to seek out food grown and produced in their area, and tries to make Young Farms as accessible as possible to consumers, sharing recipes and recommendations for preparing their vegetables, and often staying past closing time to accommodate late-comers. Thanks to the Youngs’ commitment to farming and willingness to innovate and diversify, Young Farms is able to continue producing fresh, healthy food in an area that is quickly transitioning away from agriculture.