In the fall of 2002, farmer-owner Paul Bucciaglia moved to New Milford, CT, and plowed the first four acres of what would become Fort Hill Farm. The property, a parcel leased through the Sunny Valley Preserve, a project of The Nature Conservancy, was a large hayfield of flat, well drained, stone-free, Class-I sandy loam. When Paul arrived at the farm, it was a hayfield with virtually no infrastructure. With the help of many apprentices, managers, farm crew, friends, professionals, and Paul’s energetic father Joe Bucciaglia, the farm has since built greenhouses, coolers, driveways, and numerous additions and upgrades to the pole barn that Sunny Valley constructed on the farm in 2005. Along the way, Paul and crew have resurrected or repaired heaps of ancient farm equipment left for dead by other farmers.
With the help of Natural Resources Conservation Services, Fort Hill was able to drill two wells on the farm, install an irrigation pipeline delivery system, and build the large three bay high tunnel that produces most of the farms’ tomatoes. Funds from the State of Connecticut’s Farm Reinvestment Program helped build one of the farm’s greenhouses, upgrade field machinery, and install solar panels on the barn.
The land continues to be worked by Paul and his partner Rebecca Batchie. Fort Hill Farm boasts a bountiful array of certified organic vegetables, herbs, flowers, and small fruit on about 20 acres, which supplies a 300-share Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. We also attend two area farmers’ markets, and maintain a small number of wholesale accounts. In addtion, Fort Hill Farm is very proud to make sizeable weekly donations to the New Milford Food Bank.
The history of the farm
The place of the farm has a very ancient history. Native American settlements were located in the northwest corner of our field, which has been under cultivation for many centuries. The hill above Fort Hill is called Guarding Mountain, and was a lookout for the Weantinoge Indians as they kept watch on the Housatonic River. Going back tens of thousands of years, the farm was a sandy beach on the shores of a great river that formed as the glacial ice sheet which covered most of New England in thousands of feet of ice, began to melt, releasing torrents of water. The many hundreds of feet of sand and gravel below Fort Hill are a testament to the power of water. As European settlers began to advance west from the Atlantic, Fort Hill would have been an attractive place to settle, already cleared and farmed by the Weantinoge. In the 1800’s, the Fort Hill Farm was the site of the New Milford fair, and faint traces of the horse racetrack can be still be seen in satellite photos today. The farm was purchased by George Pratt in the 1930’s, and consolidated into Sunny Valley Farm. Sunny Valley operated as a large dairy farm until the 1980’s. Reorganized as Sunny Valley Preserve, Sunny Valley now rents several farms, including Fort Hill Farm, to local farmers in the towns of New Milford and Bridgewater.