story & photos
by Maren Schober
Approaching Maple Lane Farms in Preston on this beautiful July day is like entering a land of enchantment. Rolling fields of green and farmhouses greet me on every turn, and as I drive up Northwest Corner Road, I suddenly find myself surrounded by old stone walls along the winding road. Overhead the ancient maple trees bend to form a tunnel. Everywhere I look is picture perfect. Alongside the road, berry pickers bend as they pluck the ripe blueberries from the bushes and drop them into their buckets.
“I have had this farm since 1978,” Allyn Brown tells me. “I grew up right across the street in that white farmhouse, and my father lives there now at the age of 93. I live in that house on the hill with my wife Kim and my twelve year old daughter Anna.”
“I went to the University of Maine in Orono, ME to do track,” Allyn continues, “but I was told I had to choose a course of study. It was easy for me to choose Agriculture. I love the outdoors, and I knew I wanted to farm. I finished up my education at UConn.”
Maple Lane Farms started out as a Christmas tree farm. Then as time went on, Allyn expanded with blueberry, raspberry and black currant plants. All fresh berries are good for one’s health, but Allyn is particularly proud of marketing his own natural black currant juice from his currant crop and bottled in his CT Currant Bottling Plant.
“The health benefits from black currants are well known,” Allyn points out. “For years Europeans have coveted black currants for their natural vitamins, antioxidants and delicious flavors. From the bottling plant the black currant juice is sent to food markets all over, including McQuades in Mystic and Westerly, Shop Rite and Stop & Shop stores. You will find them in the fresh produce departments.”
Inside the bottling plant is very impressive. Spacious and clean, I observe the gleaming stainless steel equipment awaiting the next bottling day.
Maple Lane Farms opens in the end of June for berry picking and stays open right through Christmas. Raspberries are at their prime now and good blueberry picking continues through August. Black currants will soon be ripe for picking.
“Families come in the fall for apple picking and choosing their pumpkins. On the fall weekends, we offer hayrides until the season concludes with cutting your own Christmas trees,” Allyn shares. “We are open 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon seven days a week.”
Before I leave, I decide to pick my own raspberries and blueberries. In the fields I meet many nice folks and have a chance to chat.
I find Mike Lallier picking blueberries with his young grandson, Justin. “I love blueberries the best,” Mike tells me. “I put a few Cheerios into my bowl and add a heap of blueberries on top. I have just a few Cheerios and the rest, blueberries!”
Planning to visit the farm to pick your own berries? Be sure to call the 24-hour information line at 860.887.8855 for the current field conditions and picking times.