Haley and Andy Billip’s small agrarian paradise sits on fifty acres in the middle of suburban Newington, the only farm in town. Eddy Farm grows organic vegetables and flowers. Haley, in her white shirt and black leggings and sunglasses, is sun-browned and bright-smiled. Andy has a firm handshake. Karl, one-and-a-half, and Marian, two-and-a-half, are blond, blue-eyed, and not interested much in anyone but mom and dad. Cousin, the family’s shaggy dog, sniffs around the nearby trees. With the Connecticut spring finally turning warm, the greenhouses are starting to fill up — that is, if you can find them.
The Eddy Farm driveway is tucked between a real estate sign and the neighbor’s garbage bins. On one side of the winding dirt path stands a cylinder of bottles and a pyramid of rocks, both stacked taller than my Honda. Through the garden next to the house and past the kids’ sandbox, the greenhouses and fields are visible, sharing a border with the golf course next door.
Reaching her hand inside one greenhouse, Haley notes how much hotter it is than the air outside. “It basically makes it seem like the tomatoes live in Florida,” she says, “and they’re really happy about it.” Tomatoes are one of Eddy Farm’s staple vegetables, along with lettuce, onions, garlic, kale, chards, and peppers. These vegetables are sold at the Eddy Farm Stand through the summer months. The stand is supplemented by vegetables from a farm in Wethersfield, and with fruit from a farm in Glastonbury. The other farms are not always entirely chemical-free, like Eddy Farm, but the Billips do the best they can to ensure that all the products they sell are as organic as possible.
The farm stand opened in 1960. The legend, according to Haley, is that her mother and aunt started it by taking a basket of tomatoes down to the side of the road as kids. No one stopped all day until their grandmother, who lived across the street, bought everything. How much of that story is exaggerated, Haley can’t say for sure, but she does get old ladies coming to the farm stand every year. They tell her that they’ve been shopping there since they were teenagers.
After harvesting, the Eddy Farm flowers and vegetables go into the coolers. There are a few coolers in the dairy barn that sits next to the house: insulated storage closets cooled by air-conditioning units engineered to reach down to forty degrees.
From the coolers, many of the flowers go to the floral design studio, a low-ceilinged, dimly lit room lined with counters. This is where Haley arranges the flowers into bouquets for events or the weekly bouquet subscription service she runs. “This is actually the old milk room,” she says, gesturing around at the big metal sink and the piles of dried flowers sitting on the counter. “We don’t have dairy cows, thank goodness, because they’re huge and they produce a ton of shit. Literally tons and tons.”
Upstairs is what Haley calls the “party barn.” A big open space with couches and chairs tucked into the corners, the party barn is complete with a skateboard quarter pipe and a rock-climbing wall installed on the slanted ceiling. “I wish we had more time to enjoy this space,” says Haley. “The thing that surprises me most about being a farmer is how little free time you have. But that’s fine, I like working.”
As much as Haley likes working, she admits that sometimes working on a farm is tedious. There is a balance that needs to be found between the drudgery of hands-on farm work and the community aspect of the job. “When you have little kids and you have a business to run, there are some moments when it’s really exciting and fun,” says Haley, “but a lot of the time, especially on a farm, it’s just slogging through.” Even so, Haley can’t imagine herself doing anything else. Between working in the fields two days a week and, during the kids’ naptimes and after bedtime, arranging flowers, designing the Eddy Farm website (with the help of her graphic design skills from college), and planning to expand her studio, there is always something to do. “I like to be the problem-solver and the person making the decisions,” she says. “It’s definitely better than sitting at a desk all day.”
The kids also benefit from mom and dad never being too far for work. When Haley’s in the field, like today, they can stay home with dad and peek out the window to catch a glimpse of her or sit in the sandbox and point out every plane that flies overhead. Today they got new sand in their sandbox; it was a big day.
“This house was my grandparents’ house,” Haley explains, gesturing to the white farmhouse, “so we’d come here for the holidays. People ask, ‘did your grandfather teach you how to farm?’ No. I think he would have been really surprised, yet really pleased, that the farm is still around.”