Farm as life

So how does a woman who worked for an orthopedist in Bridgeport wind up with a farm in Easton and go, as she says, “from bones to beets”?

“Sleep deprivation from two young kids and my husband’s idea,” Patti Popp says with an infectious laugh before impersonating said sleep-deprived self:
“Oh, sure, honey, you want to start a farm.”

That was at the birth of a new century. For the past 16 years, Popp and husband Allan, a former landscaper, have been the owners of Sport Hill Farm — a 30-acre spread. The couple raises pigs for meat and chickens for eggs while growing an assortment of spring greens (lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, collard, arugula, broccoli rabe), cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes and the two biggest farm sellers — corn and tomatoes.

Popp gets the produce out in three ways — with an on-site market that also features dairy and baked goods, wholesale distribution to restaurants such as the Delamar Southport and participation in community-supported agriculture, a 20-week program in which families give farmers money for needed materials and in turn get “first dibs,” as Popp puts it, on the crops.

The farm employs 10 people. The couple’s two sons — now 20 and 16 — are working on it this summer. And Popp offers internships to two Westport High School students with an interest in agriculture whom she trains during the last four weeks of the school year.

“They are the future,” she says. “They have to be shown the correct way to do things.”

What they also learn is that farming is “a lifestyle not a job,” with days that begin at 5:30 a.m. and end around 8 or 9 p.m. The rhythm of those days becomes its own clock — and its own calendar. The year begins with preparations for what needs to be planted and purchased, then moves on to spring planting, summer growing and the fall harvest.

Not surprisingly, Halloween is Popp’s favorite holiday.

“My favorite season is fall,” she says. “I know I can slow down a bit and reflect on the journey I’ve been on.”

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, Popp takes a break — cooking and catching up with friends “to let them know I’m still alive” and the dreaded paperwork.

But some things are 365. “I can’t tell the chickens it’s Christmas and they’re not going to be fed.

“Farming,” she continues, “is hard work. It’s not for the faint of heart. But then I look back and see what we have accomplished each year, and it’s pretty amazing. It really is a miracle.”

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PATTI POPP’S CLASSIC TOMATO SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
 1 tablespoon butter
 1 onion, finely chopped
 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
 2 tablespoons flour
→ 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
 1 24-ounce jar Sport Hill Farm crushed tomatoes
 1½ teaspoons sugar
 1 sprig fresh thyme
 Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Combine ingredients in a stock/soup pot and allow to cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. Add thinly sliced basil, chives or dill for extra flavor. Serves 4 to 6.

For more, visit sporthillfarm.com.

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