'Get reacquainted with our town's rich agricultural history and its tradition of quilting'

To the Editor:

One of New Milford’s most appealing characteristics is its vast and vibrant volunteer tradition.

Increasingly, as federal, state and town resources become more constrained, there is an accelerated willingness to collaborate among New Milford’s many active nonprofit organizations, an often very generous giving public and now more than ever, informally, with town entities.

Some examples include collaborations with the Departments of Public Works and Parks & Recreation and the New Milford Farmland & Forest Preservation Committee.

This collaboration is making possible enhancements to our town and quality of life that might not have been achievable any other way.

The latest example is the New Milford Barn Quilt Trail, our state’s first, funded in 2014 by a $7,770 grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

It has been matched by tremendous numbers of in-kind volunteer hours, plus funds contributed by residents, the Commission for the Arts, the New Milford Farmland & Forest Preservation Commission and the Office of Mayor David Gronbach.

Popular throughout over 40 U.S. states, barn quilt trails consist of large quilt-block designs painted and hung on often antique and vintage barns that honor our country’s farming and quilt-making heritage.

The first phase of the New Milford Barn Quilt Trail consists of eight barn quilt-block sites hosted by local farming families, whom we thank for their generosity in making the trail possible.

We look forward to seeing if other neighboring Litchfield County towns will follow suit, extending the trail and the opportunity to create a countywide attraction that may contribute to increasing tourism, as it has in other U.S. states.

By Sept 24, when the barn quilt trail is inaugurated, there will be a website adapted for viewing on mobile devices, a hard copy brochure, with maps of the trail and histories of the host farms and farming in New Milford, with photos and background on the actual barn quilt blocks.

The New Milford Barn Quilt Trail originated with longtime quilter and former Mayor Pat Murphy, who successfully sought the state grant that made the trail possible, along with former mayoral aide Tammy Reardon.

Linda Hollins, Mayor David Gronbach’s secretary, was responsible for obtaining an extension to the state grant to allow us to finish the trail this year, and mayoral aide Mary Vannucci helped get us to the finish line successfully.

They worked together with the New Milford Historic Society, especially board chairman Ted Hine and board member Kathleen Zuris, to identify the barns that anchor this first phase of eight.

We thank the eight barn host families: the Harris family, Hunt Hill Farm Trust, the town of New Milford (owners of the small former tobacco barns behind Town Barn and Sullivan Farm), Karen Duffy and Alex Reisberg, Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust Inc. (owner of the Smyrski Farm Preserve), and Fritz and George Wieting.

We thank, too, Dave Martin and Joe Bayne from the New Milford facilities team for their artistic hanging of the five final barn quilt blocks.

An especially heartfelt thank you goes to the Village Center for the Arts and Co-Director Jayson Roberts for their magnificent job of digitally rendering and painting the final five 8-foot-by-8-foot squares over two months with help from these tireless volunteers: Steve Bean, Icaro Costa, Benjamin Dages, Joe Di Guiseppe, Dianne Elizabeth, Cindy Jergens, Brody Lennon, Deb Sowerby and Lacee Yurtoglu.

We could not have completed this project without the extraordinary assistance of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation, its chairman Robert Burkhart and board member William Devlin, who researched background on several of the barns and wrote for us the history of farming in our town that will appear on the website and in the brochure.

At its height, farming in our town comprised over 150 farms, mainly in tobacco and dairy.

So as soon as the new webpage at newmilfordfarmlandpres.org and the brochure are complete, you’ll be able to get out in your car, by bike or on foot and get reacquainted with our town’s rich agricultural history and its tradition of quilting.

Julie Bailey

Sue Bailey

Suzanne Von Holt

The 2017 Ad Hoc Barn Quilt Trail Committee

New Milford