Allyson Angelini was always fascinated by the way the land worked with food, animals and people. After years of study and careful planning, and taking one big risk, the fruits of Allyson’s dream are now ready to harvest. The Ledyard High alum is proud to officially open Full Heart Farm in Ledyard this month.
The goal of Full Heart Farm is to encourage a return to the family table through meal-based farming. The farm plans to grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, and meat, and market it to the public through a unique “Full Plate MemberShare Program,” said Angelini.
“We plan to support our family and our local community through food, education, and the arts. It has long been my goal to help cultivate in others a greater appreciation for food by teaching them how it’s grown, prepared, and enjoyed.”
A twist on the popular CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs seen on farms around the area, their Full Plate MemberShare program uses the basic CSA formula, while maintaining a more balanced farm ecosystem.
Each week shareholders will receive a box of local, seasonal food grown at Full Heart Farm. Depending on the weather and the time of year, the box may contain vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, and meat. The ingredients can be used to make 1-2 family meals, or be incorporated into daily eating. Shares always include meal recommendations and recipe ideas. The Full Plate MemberShare also offers a diverse selection of local foods (not just kale!), which suit a wide range of palates and cooking styles.
“I believe that this program is a great way to begin incorporating local, seasonal eating into a family’s diet,” Angelini said. “The average family in southeastern Connecticut spends about $100 a week on groceries, and eats out at least once a week. The Full Plate share will allow families to allot 25% of the grocery budget to local eating, which means about two meals a week, while still allowing busy families to maintain their current lifestyle.”
Allyson has been rooted in farming for some time now. She attended UMass Amherst, where she received a degree in Agriculture Education. Allyson previously worked at Terra Firma Farm (an educational farm in Stonington); Cook Farm (a family-run dairy in Hadley, Mass); Spannocchia (a self-sufficient pork farm in Tuscany, Italy); and as a farm manager at Jones Family Farms (a pick-your-own operation with cooking school and winery in Shelton).
In September of 2011, Allyson left her steady job at Jones Family Farms and moved back to the Mystic area to put all her efforts into making her dream a reality. She researched and applied for the USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) program for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, a loan program popular throughout the country, but not often used in this region.
According to the USDA’s website: “The Farm Service Agency provides direct and guaranteed loans to beginning farmers and ranchers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial credit sources. Each fiscal year, the Agency targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan funds to beginning farmers and ranchers.” Allyson is considered by the guidelines of the FSA to be “disadvantaged” as a farmer. Why? Because she’s female and she’s 24 years old. According to the latest US Agriculture Census, for every farmer under 35 years old, there are 6 farmers over 65. It’s not currently a ‘young person’s game’.
After months of work preparing farm business plans, researching equipment and months of tours for available farmland, Angelini found a small patch of land (a little over 6 acres) in Ledyard. The FSA subsequently approved her application.
Allyson shares the work at Full Heart Farm with her fiancé, Keith Padin, a Shelton native, who has spent the last five years as the Director of Marketing and Hospitality at Jones Family Farms in Shelton.
Full Heart Farm is now taking sign-ups for their Full Plate MemberShare program. The program is limited to 30 shares for the first year and individuals interested in supporting this new farm and signing up for the program can do so at FullHeartFarm.com.