Grandson raising funds to revitalize, refocus family's Brookfield homestead
Breanna Lembitz and Andrew Weeks strike an American Gothic pose in front of the old barn at the Coleraine Farm in Brookfield. (courtesy Aly Perry)
A sign points to the recently revitalized Coleraine Farm off Stoneham Road in Brookfield, where the grandsons of the original farm owner are making a go of creating a new educational homestead and school for the arts with a focus on sustainability. (courtesy Aly Perry)
L-R: Breanna Lembitz and Aly Perry harvest baskets of beans and produce after the Coleraine Farm's first growing season this summer. (courtesy Aly Perry)
The first growing season at the Coleraine Farm in Brookfield yielded a bounty of heirloom crops. (courtesy Aly Perry)
The owners and staff at the Coleraine Farm in Brookfield are raising money to improve the property. Projects include electrifying the old barn. They face an Oct. 18 deadline to raise $20,000 through www.kickstarter.com, an online fundraising tool. (courtesy Aly Perry)
BROOKFIELD - Coleraine Farm, dormant for several years after the passing of its owner, Raymond Weeks, is experiencing a revival thanks to his grandson Andrew, who is racing against the clock to raise $20,000 by Oct. 18 to honor his grandfather's dying wish that the farm continue.
“I want to revitalize the family farm by creating an educational homestead and center for the arts with a focus on sustainability,” said Andrew Weeks, 31, who once lived in New York City. He runs the 29-acre farm on Stoneham Road that his brother, Kagen Weeks, now owns.
Last month, Andrew launched a fundraising campaign through www.kickstarter.com. The $20,000 must be pledged by the deadline or the farm gets nothing.
The 240-year-old farm needs a lot of work. Weeks said. Priorities include rewiring the barn, relining the chimney in the main house, restoring the foundation, and building a four-season greenhouse.
“I really felt a lack of community and sustainability in the city. Cities can be neat places, but I'm a country boy and I know how to build community. I wanted to use what my family had. If I moved to the farm, I could provide a place that was healthy, sustainable and needed,” Andrew Weeks said Wednesday.
“These are uncertain times. With uncertainty in the economy, uncertainty in energy, it seems more important than ever to grow your own food and to have your own land so you can share with others,” he said.
Andrew Weeks has some experience in agriculture. He started a Community Supported Agricultural Program in upstate New York from scratch with a team of other residents. The crew tilled fields, installed a water pump, worked the land. Plus, he remembered what he learned from working on the farm with his grandparents as a child. Andrew also has a certificate from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where his skills in radio documentary making will be utilized when the farm launches a recorded living history sound room, inviting elderly residents in to share farm stories. He also has a degree in wildlife biology from Empire State College in New York City, where he still works from time to time to keep the money coming in.
“I kept remembering the things I learned as a child. It was natural,” he said.
At the Common Man Fair he attended recently with other farmers in Maine, he was told that the feeling in farming of not knowing what you are doing never goes away. There are so many factors to farming and so much to learn, said Andrew.
Growing crops, creativity
In recent weeks, Coleraine Farm experienced its first very successful growing season. It raised 160 varieties of vegetables, including eight or nine varieties of lettuce, sold at its farm stand. The farm also raises chickens and bees, for eggs and honey.
Andrew's team includes: brother and beekeeper Kagen Weeks, to whom Ray left the farm when he died; Andrew's girlfriend, Breanna Lembitz, who is working on her PhD in economics and the farm's business plan; farmer and woodworker Cody Fosbrook, 24, and farmer, artist and photographer Aly Perry, 28.
Passersby this summer stopped often at the farm to see what was going on. Young farmers are rare around here, noted Andrew. “There's not anyone between 18 and 40 farming, so people are so happy we are here,” he said. “We made the neighbors bread.”
Creativity thrives at Coleraine Farm along with the crops. Plans are in the works for numerous classes and workshops: clowning, furniture making, building an outdoor earthen oven, and, a weekend Super Hero Training Camp. Taught by Andrew's friend, “Dr. Adventure,” the workshop's theme is on doing good deeds and physical training. “It's about being a good person and a good community activist,” said Andrew.
“These are the kids of creative people we want to bring in to do their projects here,” he said.
Thus far, according to the Coleraine Farm page on Kickstarter (go to: www.kickstarter.com/projects, and type in the farm name in the search box to see the mini-documentary and the pledge box), only $3,156 of the $20,000 goal has been met.
Visit the farm's FaceBook page, http://www.facebook.com/ColeraineFarm.
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