Open house farm tours will help celebrate town's 325th anniversary
Preston - Organizers of this year's 325th anniversary celebration couldn't leave out the cows in a celebration of town history.
Preston will celebrate its rich farming history Saturday with free open house tours of four very different farming operations, ranging from a commercial dairy to backyard alpacas to a vegetable farm-share program to a local winery gearing up for the fall harvest.
"We wanted some variety," said Lynwood Crary, a member of the Conservation Commission's Agricultural Subcommittee and farm tour coordinator for the 325th. "We had tours of the Woodmansee Farm in 1987 (the 300th town anniversary), so we wanted to include them. And we have a lot of different farms in town right now. The vineyard is supposed to open in September, so this will be a warm-up for them."
Absent from Saturday's tours is Preston Farms on Route 2, home of the popular annual corn maze. Owner Jerry Grabarek will open the corn maze in September and will add a farm tour at that time, Crary said.
On Saturday, farm tour patrons will be invited to visit any or all of the farm tour participants from 1 to 4 p.m. in any order and for as long as they wish.
A visit to the 200-acre Zion Hill Farm at 117 River Road offers a two-for-one deal, as families can view the 10 Huacaya alpacas owned by farm owner Timothy Bowles and check out Philomel Gardens, Preston's organic farm-share program in its second season.
Philomel Gardens, which leases space at Zion Hill Farm, is run by Gretchen Oat and Will McGee. They offer mixed vegetables through a summer farm-share program which runs from June through October.
They also till and cultivate much of their gardens in spring with the help of their two draft horses, Mary and Misty.
If you want a close-up look at dairy farming in New England, visit Woodmansee Farms at 317 Route 165. The Woodmansee family has farmed these 400-plus acres for four generations. They milk 100 registered Holsteins twice a day, with each cow averaging 24,475 pounds, or pints, of milk per year. The milking cows are housed in a freestall barn.
Woodmansee Farms also raises 100 calves and heifers. The farm also harvests 200 acres of corn and 100 acres of hay each year to support the dairy farm.
One of Preston's newest agricultural operations is the Preston Ridge Vineyard at 100 Miller Road. The Sawyer and Helms families founded the vineyard in 2008, when they planted their first grapes. The vineyard has since expanded to an additional 5 acres of vines stretching across two levels of the property.
In 2011, Preston Ridge Vineyard produced its first vintage wine, and the tasting room is scheduled to open to the public in the fall.
"We wanted to do this as part of the Preston 325th to showcase our farming history," Crary said. "We have everything from a commercial dairy to alpacas in your backyard."
While Preston residents might be familiar with the farms' locations, outside visitors will be guided by several signs that will be posted at key road intersections and near the farms' entrances, Crary said.