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Tim Gannon is one of the volunteers making things happen at Killingworth’s Parmelee Farm. The crew’s latest accomplishment is building this sugarhouse, which will be ready for business in 2019. (Photo by Margaret McNellis/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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Tim Gannon, chairman of the Parmelee Farm Steering Committee in Killingworth, is looking forward to the farm’s first season making maple syrup in its new sugarhouse. The result of collaboration between the farm’s volunteers, local contractors, and the steering committee, the sugarhouse is almost complete.
“We’ve raised $11,500 so far,” Tim says. “And our next step is to purchase the equipment. We hope to raise enough money by the end of November.”
The committee raises money for the farm’s projects in a number of ways, including private donations. But for the sugarhouse, Tim and John Byrne, who designed the new sugarhouse sign, crafted autumn leaves of red, gold, orange, and green to sell. Donors can write on the leaves, which will then be mounted on the interior of the sugarhouse.
The leaves go for $25 each and are available throughout the community, including at the Killingworth Library and Killingworth Town Hall. The leaves were so popular that Tim had to arrange for second and third batches to be made.
In addition to selling the leaves, which are made of Azek—a long-lasting building material typically used in trim and decking—Tim spreads the word about the farm and its new sugarhouse via marketing campaigns and the farm’s Facebook page, which he manages.
Originally, the goal was to raise the funds to build the sugarhouse.
“The kit was about $11,000, but the plans were only $65,” he says.
The Parmelee Farm Sugarhouse was built almost entirely by volunteers, including contractors volunteering their labor on the farm.
“Luckily, we have a lot of people in town who are volunteering-oriented,” Tim says. “Local contractors have made a bit difference in how fast we were able to progress.”
One advantage to building from plans was the ability to make changes.
“We modified the plans, making our sugarhouse bigger so that it’s 16 by 24 feet. There’s more room so it’s safer for kids; they can come into the sugarhouse without getting too close to the heat,” Tim says.
The sugarhouse is a “natural fit as part of our educational mission,” Tim says.
With Haddam-Killingworth Middle School within walking distance of the farm, Tim wants to initiate a sugaring club to educate students about how to make maple syrup. Tim has been sugaring for about six years, and can spot a sugar maple tree from its bark.
Tim has found people in the community are happy to volunteer, and all he has to do is ask.
“It’s about getting the community involved—that’s what’s important,” he says. “We try to make improvements every year so people can enjoy the farm. We [also] try to triple the value of the money we have to work with.”
Funds received by the town and community typically go toward purchasing materials and supplies so volunteers can make those improvements.
Tim’s involvement in the farm began before the steering committee was in place. He was one of the farm’s first community gardeners. The Parmelee Farm, which passed through the hands of many owners, including a turkey farm, before the town bought it, still supports a community garden, which Tim remarked is useful to those who find their own home gardening plots too rocky, for example.
“But you get to be part of a community. That’s what it’s all about,” Tim adds.
The Town of Killingworth purchased the farm in 2000, but seven years passed before referendums allowed any real work to begin.
“In the first year, 2007, we developed our master plan,” Tim says. “The farm house was our first big project. Now it houses the [Killingworth] Historical Society, which has a 99-year lease, so they’ll be there awhile…They also lease the garage, which houses the old town hearse, which was pulled by horses.”
A more recent project spearheaded by the Parmelee Farm Steering Committee is the restoration of one of Killingworth’s eight original one-room schoolhouses. Working with the historical society, Tim and the committee have led volunteers in relocating the Pine Orchard Schoolhouse from its original location on route 148 to the farm, and restoring it, including building a new floor from milled pine donated to the farm.
Also new to the schoolhouse are some windows, siding, trim, and even a stone wall.
“I call stone walls the frame for the photo,” Tim says, calling upon his career as a photographer and photography teacher.
All of the updated materials in the schoolhouse were chosen for their sustainability.
“We try to do stuff for the future,” Tim says.
Some of the schoolhouse’s older features include steps revived from the old town hall.
“It’s really nice having steps with historical significance,” Tim says—though it’s not just the steps that are historically significant. The schoolhouse is now situated on the sugar-maple-lined Old Route 81, which runs through the farm. “We plan to have an open house once the landscaping is done around the schoolhouse.”
Part of that landscaping includes clearing the land, a constant effort at Parmelee Farm. From mowing fields to cutting back vines of invasive bittersweet, Tim and other volunteers—who are all listed on the Parmelee Farm website parmeleefarm.org—not only work to complete projects like the X and the Pine Orchard Schoolhouse, but also help maintain the beauty of the grounds.
“I love stone walls, so we like to have them show,” Tim says.
In addition to coordinating volunteers, community gardeners, eagle scouts, and helping to manage the farm, Tim has also served for 35 years in the Killingworth Lions Club. He was an original founder of the Killingworth Chamber of Commerce, and is still involved.
“Volunteering is in my blood,” Tim says, and the fruits of his labors—and of those who join him in efforts to continue to move forward on the farm—have created a community-centered resource where people can connect with and learn about both nature and history.
Parmelee Farm provides a venue for concerts, community gardens, a shared harvest garden, educational programs, weddings, a farmer’s market, trails, and more. Though winter is coming, the farm has one more event planned for the year—a Christmas Fair on Saturday, Dec. 1.
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