Temp manager hired for Happy Acres
Updated 5:10 pm, Wednesday, March 19, 2014
A temporary farm manager for Happy Acres Farm has been hired in Sherman.
"We signed a contract with Jeff Lescynski this week, who has taken over the management of Happy Acres," First Selectman Clay Cope said Wednesday, March 19.
"Jeff is an experienced cattle farmer," he added. "He will manage and run the farm until June 30, through a contract with the town."
Happy Acres stock consists of 54 cattle, including eight calves. The majority of the cattle are Black Angus.
The Board of Selectmen are drafting a request of proposals to farm Happy Acres that is expected to go out in the near future, Cope said.
Cope had been given authority March 11 by the selectmen to hire someone.
The town of Sherman took ownership Tuesday, March 18 of the 92-acre farm.
It had purchased the farm from Tony Hapanowich in 2010 for $2.9 million, granting the former longtime first selectman a life estate to remain on the property until his death.
Hapanowich died in August 2013, leaving the management of the farm in a temporary trust.
Frank Pruchnik served as the farm manager as an employee of the trust.
The Pruchnik family has had a presence at Happy Acres going back to the time when Hapanowich's father owned the property.
"I remember being here as a boy, dipping a ladle into a bucket of milk to get a drink," Pruchnik said. "My Uncle Joe worked here from the time he was 15.
"My father and grandfather worked here," he recalled. "There are a lot of people who made this place work over the years."
Pruchnik reportedly showed interest in leasing Happy Acres from the town at the March 11 meeting, but his informal proposal to lease the farm was rejected by the selectmen.
They found his request exceeded the authority granted them by a town meeting held in February.
Pruchnik later said he had not actually made a lease offer but rather a proposal for terms if he were to be retained.
In February, voters appropriated $64,000 to fund the operation of Happy Acres through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2014.
A request for proposal (RFP) is being sent out in the next months by the town to find the right farming fit for the 92-acre farm. The RFP would seek someone to tenant farm the property starting July 1, 2014.
"What exists at Happy Acres should not be discounted," Cope wrote in February, when debate was underway about the farm's future.
"It is a cattle farm, not by accident, but by experience -- that of generations of farmers on that land," Cope wrote. "My hope is that the town will continue to support the operations of the farm, in whatever capacity is not a burden to the taxpayer.
"After all," he added, "that was the intention of the benefactor of Happy Acres Farm, and we have an obligation to that legacy."