Laurel Glen: Young couple is saving a family farm in Shelton

Randy Rogowski and his fiancee Victoria Smey are working to preserve a Shelton family farm by introducing a community supported agriculture program.   — Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn photo

Randy Rogowski and his fiancee Victoria Smey are working to preserve a Shelton family farm by introducing a community supported agriculture program. — Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn photo

Seated atop his tractor, Randy Rogowski surveys the six-acre farm on Waverly Road in Shelton he inherited last year from his uncle, Peter Rogowski.

Because he’s committed to Laurel Glen Farm’s growth, Rogowski recently initiated a community supported agriculture (CSA) program on the property. Customers were able to purchase a “full share” of seasonal vegetables for $400, and a “half share” for $200.

“They pay up front, which is nice because it helps us purchase the plants and supplies needed for the garden,” Rogowski said.

A native of Shelton, the 22-year-old graduate of Emmett O’Brien Technical High School grew up only a stone’s throw from Laurel Glen Farm. Rogowski recalls his grandfather, Alex Rogowski, toiling in vegetable gardens.

“He’s still involved in the farm,” Rogowski said.

 

CSA is popular

The Shelton community appears to be excited about the CSA because all of its shares sold out only one hour after it was announced in a news release on the SheltonHerald.com website.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Victoria Smey, Rogowski’s fiancée. “We are completely full.”

Shelton farmer Randy Rogowski on a tractor at Laurel Glen Farm, which was previously owned by his uncle. — Karen Kovacs Dydzhun  photo

Shelton farmer Randy Rogowski on a tractor at Laurel Glen Farm, which was previously owned by his uncle. — Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn photo

Customers purchased a “full share” of each week’s freshly picked produce. More recently, half-shares of the crops also were sold. The CSA program runs for 16 weeks.

Smey is a 2013 graduate of the University of Connecticut. Although she has a bachelor’s degree in English, Smey took several agriculture classes.

She is currently employed at Stone Garden Farms in Shelton. Rogowksi’s day job is at a mill in Bridgeport.

However, the couple’s dream is to work full time at Laurel Glen Farm.

Some of the vegetables ready for the CSA’s first week were Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens and radish sprouts. Customers may choose whether to pick up their items on Wednesday or Saturday.

“We want to spread out the harvest each week,” Smey said.

A family farm

Laurel Glen Farm has been in the Rogowski family since the early 1900s. Until the late 1970s, the family operated a dairy farm on the land.

The farm provides hay bales to local garden centers and farms.

Although the farm property once was 100 acres, only six acres remain.

“I’m sad that the farm isn’t as big as it once was but I don’t want to see the remainder of the farm disappear,” Rogowski said.

He and Smey have planted on one acre this season. They plan to expand the garden to two acres next year and eventually utilize all of the land.

This year they also hope to open a farmstand on
the property.

Before beginning to plant this March, Rogowski carefully plotted out the rows of vegetables. Using a greenhouse at Stone Garden Farms, he was able to get many plants started while the ground was still cold.

Because cool temperatures prevailed throughout May and even into June, Rogowski uses a covering called Reemay to keep the plants in the field warm.

 

Crop protection

Shelton-Rogowski4Although Laurel Glen is not an organic farm, Rogowski implements environmentally sensitive integrated pest management (IPM) practices to protect the crops from pests, disease and weeds, he said.

According to IPM, farmers use a four-tier system to evaluate what pest or insect is present and whether a control is needed. They also try to avoid the problem altogether by control and prevention methodologies.

“We use pesticides when it’s necessary,” Rogowski said. “I’ll go out and scout around and see what’s there first. Then I’ll spray accordingly.”

So far, deer that trespass on the property and eat the plants have been Rogowski’s main challenge. “They’re jumping over the electric fence,” he said.

Learn more about the farm at laurelglenfarm.wordpress.com.

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