This is the taking a look at what’s happening at Ambler Farm.
While it was the cheese that stood alone in the nursery rhyme, “The Farmer in the Dell,” Ambler Farm’s newest farmer will certainly have more of a community standing with him.
Jonathan Kirschner was welcomed as the farm’s first Director of Agriculture in early March of this year, and the Friends of Ambler Farm—the board that oversees operations at the 200 year old, town-owned working farm—is excited about the kind of change he’ll bring.
“Jonathan is a great new addition,” said Neil Gluckin, president of Ambler’s board. “’Director of Agriculture’ is a new title and it reflects the potential for someone in this role. Jonathan has a very important job in planting seeds and growing plants and food, but it goes far beyond that. It’s working closely with [Ambler’s program director] Kevin Meehan to strengthen existing programs and develop new ones; and also to operate in an outreach capacity, to attract people to the farm with ways that they can participate in our agricultural operation.”
It doesn’t hurt that Kirschner has an engaging personality as well. “The key thing is that Jonathan has a tremendous imagination and a great energy level. He’s is going to bring a sense of adventure to whatever he does at the farm,” Gluckin added.
Kirschner is excited about working at Ambler, knowing that Wilton residents are very involved with and dedicated to the farm.
“The idea of a community participating in the farm is probably the first thing that attracted me to Ambler Farm. I first learned to farm on community farms, and I owned and managed a CSA as well. But Ambler Farm is not just me running a farm that’s for the community; it is a community itself—there are more people, there’s more here, there’s more going on, there’s more that I, as a farmer, would not be able to do on my own. So I can still do what I love, but also have access to other things I love that I can’t do on my own. That was an immediate attraction,” he said.
Farming may course through Kirschners blood now, but he admits it wasn’t necessarily in his DNA.
“I didn’t grow up in a farming tradition at all. My family, my grandfather and my father, were in the suit business—they sold men’s and boys’ suits. In college, I got into the environment, and started to become aware of climate issues, water and resource issues, genetic engineering. I was in the financial world as an investment adviser for about a year, concentrating on social and environmental investing. But like every job there are compromises everywhere, and I came to the point where I decided it just wasn’t for me.”
As he toured a visitor around Ambler’s growing fields and greenhouse, it’s evident how much Kirschner loves farming. He enthusiastically described how well the transplants were doing in the first spring the greenhouse has been operational, and talked of his plans for produce that will be grown in the fields. Peppered the conversation with lively anecdotes and explanations, he laughed easily throughout.
For Kirschner, though, being a good talker is a job requirement.
“Working with all the people that come here, the volunteers—even if they come out to volunteer for just a half-an-hour, say hello! I’d love to talk to people and as the season goes on, I’ll be out there in the field and they can come talk—and expect to get their hands dirty! [laughs] Weeding and talking is entirely doable!”
As for what crops he plans to add to the Ambler Farm bounty, he’s thinking about how much fun it would be to add fruit, mushrooms and other things to the variety that are already being grown there. But one thing’s for sure, he wants to know what the community wants, considering that it is Wilton that owns the farm.
“When they visit me at the farmer’s market on Wednesdays or at the farmstand here on Saturdays, they’ll tell me what they’re looking for. Right now it’s a blank slate, so if anyone has strong opinions, come over here and let me know!”