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Of the Earth: Llewelyn’s connection to the land

  • C. William “Bill” Llewelyn, the semi-retired patriarch of the clan, gazes upon huge jagged slabs of blue-veined ice arced everywhere into the air, as though the surface of the river had exploded into jewels that reflected the afternoon sunlight in odd and disorienting ways. FOR THE RECORDER/WES BLIXT

  • BLIXT


Tuesday, February 06, 2018

I spent some time recently at Five Points Farm in Northfield learning about how the resilient Llewelyn family, now in its fourth or fifth farming generation (depending on how you figure such things), has come through the decline of dairy farming with grace and good humor.

It’s a good story — about how the Llewelyn’s have turned to dried corn husks as a source of heating fuel and revenue in the past decade — and it’s one that I offered as part of a feature story in a recent Recorder supplement, In Business Since. Check it out at: bit.ly/2EfXwd0

What brought me back to Five Point a few days later, however, had nothing to do with corn husks. It was Sunday afternoon and I got a call from C. William “Bill” Llewelyn, the semi-retired patriarch of the clan, saying that the ice was piling up in the Connecticut River, south of the Bennett’s Meadow (Route 10) Bridge.

You couldn’t see the ice from the bridge, Bill reported, and it didn’t reach as far south as the Northfield Mountain. But the ice seemed to get caught up, and break apart at Five Point itself, where the river takes slight sweep to west before narrowing slightly at Munn’s Ferry. Bill said that he and his wife, Betsy, had just come back from the river and that it was spectacular.

“It’s something you might not want to miss,” said Bill. “I don’t know how long it’ll last. Bring a good camera and dress warm. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

I wasn’t about to pass on that. After all, the Llewelyns should know what not to miss. They’ve been there since 1954.

At the farm, we piled into Bill and Betsy’s truck and picked our way across broad, icy fields of corn stubble across the river from Northfield Mount Hermon School. Long before we reached the river, however, it was clear that Bill was not exaggerating. Huge jagged slabs of blue-veined ice arced everywhere into the air, as though the surface of the river had exploded into jewels that reflected the afternoon sunlight in odd and disorienting ways.

As amazing as the ice was, however, there was something that impressed me even more: it was Bill and Betsy Llewelyn themselves. It was their joy and sense of play, dressed in their snowmobile togs and heading to the river on one of the coldest days of the winter. It was their utter familiarity with every contour of their 500 acres, and it was Betsy’s stories about kayaking and the rope swing once commandeered by sons Bill, Fred and Dan.

I realized that it isn’t a savvy business decision about shelled corn that made Five Point a success, or that makes the whole Llewelyn clan seem so darned happy, it is a simple, yet profound, connection to the land itself. Every square foot of it, even as a surface of the river shattered against it.

I was again reminded of all this on Jan. 27 when I visited one of the Llewelyns’ shelled-corn customers. Gideon Porth of Deerfield’s Atlas Farm pointed out his corn burner to group touring one of his River Road greenhouses as part of Market Share Member Appreciation Day. Atlas’ operations span both sides of the Pocumtuck ridge, from sprawling and immaculate greenhouses on one side to the organic Atlas Farm Store on the other, 100 acres of it. Porth’s connection to the land, too, is profound. Different, yet special. A form, again, of terroir. We’ll pick it up from there next week.

The Cutting Board

Going Guerilla: Having taken in Dan Botkin’s “guerilla gardening” rap at Winter Fare, I can only say that the 11th annual Cabin Fever Seed Swap this Sunday, Feb. 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Green Fields Market is an absolute must. Like guerilla gardening itself, it’s free and open. Dan is from Laughing Dog Farm in Gill, and his focus on saving and growing heirloom varieties may change the way you view your own little patch of earth. Organizer Melinda McCreven reports that there will be a seed “freebie table.” More on this, too, next time around.

Soup’s On: Tinky Weisblat’s features always make my stomach growl, and this week’s piece on the Buckland Library’s soup night is especially tasty. Any chance there might be a soup night collection in the works? Someone really should.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at: wesleyblixt@me.com.