Landmark farm receives preservation grant

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Jul. 15, 2011
(L- r) Sen. Tony Guglielmo, Rep. Claire Janowski, Rep. Tim Ackert, Helen Higgins - Executive Director, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Geraldine Strong, Nancy Strong, Carol Strong Nelson and architect Robert Hurd at the presentation of the grant on July 12. Photo courtesy of Chris Fryxell/House Republican Office. - Contributed Photo

One of the last remaining farms in Vernon received a grant that will sustain it into the future.

Sen. Tony Guglielmo and Reps. Tim Ackert and Claire Janowski were on hand for the presentation of the grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's Barns Survey Project.

The Strong Farm on West Street, which has been most widely known as a turkey farm, is on its way to transforming into a non-profit historic facility that will hopefully also be used for education.

Nancy Strong, whose mother, Geraldine, still owns the farm, said the grant will go toward structural repairs on the barn – specifically to the foundation and windows, and an inspection of the roof, which was first constructed in 1917, when the previous barn had burned down.

“My grandfather hired another man, and the two of them cut the beams and everything,” Strong said, adding that it was built rather quickly in November of that year, in order to house livestock before the winter cold set in.

This is the third grant the farm has received. The first was a feasability structural grant, which laid out what repairs would be needed. The second repaired the roof on a smaller barn on the property.

Strong said the farm is also in the process of applying for status as a historical landmark on both the state and local levels. Strong is also on sabbatical, and will be using the time to get the farm its official non-profit status, as a historic agricultural education center.

“We're looking for a dream team board of directors,” Strong said, adding that the possibilities for future use include farmers' markets, and classes in conjunction with Rockville High School's Agricultural Education Program.

With something of a historical revitalization in that section of town taking place with the recent ground-breaking of the nearby Vernon Community Arts Center, Strong said there could be even more uses for the farm.

“They've contacted me about working with them,” she said.

The Strong Farm sold turkeys for 50 years, and stopped in 2010, when Strong's brother, Morgan, retired.

Currently, the farm is home only to people and cats.

Strong said there were 125 applicants for the grant, and she was initially told that her farm's condition was too good, or at least appeared so on the surface – and would likely not receive the monies.

She said that if they did not get the grant, the barn would probably just continue to deteriorate.

“It would be just falling down,” she said, adding that the upkeep would be too expensive.

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