photos & story
by Barbara Reed Collins
Every town has hidden treasures, and Center Groton has one of the best – Red Fence Farm – with 5.5-plus acres on Daboll Road, not far from Wal-Mart on Route 184. Owned by Art and Cherrie Hiles for 20 years, it is the home for some very special cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, pheasants, and a few rabbits. One lone donkey named Diogenes gets immediate attention with his greeting – a strong, loud bray that commands attention.
“He doesn’t get along with any of the other animals, so he gets to stay here by himself. He’s actually my favorite,” said Cherrie as she stroked the donkey’s head. His greeting makes him a favorite for school children and other guests who visit the farm from time to time by appointment.
The farm use is “grandfathered,” going back to a man named Daboll. But lineage is not what makes the site so special. It is the dedication of Art and Cherrie that deserves applause. All the animals they have sought out are antique breeds being raised to preserve those lines. Both Art and Cherrie are employed in other jobs; he is employeed at Wal-mart and she works at Noank Baptist Group Homes.
The Hiles are also committed to preserving the family farm lifestyle – providing quality and chemical-free food. Everything raised at Red Fence Farm is naturally grown, grass fed and pastured. What the owners do not use for their own food is sold, but supplies are limited. Turkeys are reserved months before the holidays begin. Butchering and packaging of beef, pork and poultry is completed in spotless quarters.
The biggest animals are the Highland cattle, an ancient Scottish breed. Their horns are long. And although the wavy coat colors can vary, those at Red Fence Farm are a light red. Art emphasizes that the meat tends to be leaner than most meat.
The pigs also have reddish coats. They are Tamworths – “threatened in the US.” More pigs will be bred at Red Fence Farm. Some will be sold. The breed originated in England.
Bourbon Red Turkeys are almost as noisy as Diogenes when visitors approach. Named for Bourbon County in the bluegrass region of Kentucky, they are handsome and fan their chestnut red plumage with exuberance.
Turkey and pheasant chicks get their start in a heated and protected shelter. There are also free range chickens – especially needed as layers for eager consumers who enjoy fresh eggs. An entire flock was killed recently. “Foxes, raccoons, Fisher cats, hawks – any of ‘em can do it. We lost all the laying hens in one night,” said Art. The risk, he acknowledges, is part of life on any farm.
Both he and Cherrie, express their satisfaction with a lifestyle that cherishes nature and all its wonders. Shrubs around the front of their home are bright pink – a color that attracts hummingbirds. The home is cozy with natural woodwork throughout – a pantry, cabinets, and other pieces built by Art. A bedroom bay window brings nature indoors with space for numerous plants that create a cascade of greenery.
The Groton farm is open for tours for school children and groups by appointment. For reservations or to purchase produce call 860.446.8929.