These ruminants add local flavor to the landscape
In a world where urban growth seems to be the norm and rural settings the exception, it’s refreshing to live in a town where the latter abounds. And in Ridgefield, nothing quite compares to the pastoral scene located at the corner of Old Stagecoach and Ridgebury Roads. On this gentle rise, with its glorious southeastern prospect, lies a remarkable terrain of rolling hills, streams, and woods. And for the past year, it has also been home to that symbol of all things bucolic—a herd of cows, a charming addition to an already idyllic setting.
Of course, cows are hardly new to Ridgebury. For years, the McKeon family owned and operated a thriving dairy farm here. In fact, it was Daniel McKeon who bequeathed the land to the town, with the stipulation that it would be used only for farming. Ridgefield kept the fields mown and in grazing condition, although no four-legged farm animal graced them for quite some time. It wasn’t until two years back that the town’s Conservation Commission was approached with a business plan by two young men from Ridgefield, Hans Williams and Steve Metzker. The pair had recently started a company called Apple Ridge Farms, with the idea of raising free-range, grass-fed cattle without hormones or steroids. They chose Herefords, which produce fine cuts of beef. All they needed was a pasture to bring their plan to fruition. Hesitant at first, the commission finally granted Williams and Metzker a lease, allotting them 15 acres on a trial basis. With six Herefords and a shoestring budget, the entrepreneurs were on their way.
Cleaving to green energy, the duo installed solar-powered electric fencing. Initially, a battery charged by the sun was attached to a small post. But soon woodchucks chewed through the wires, rendering the fence, shall we say, moot. It wasn’t long before the ruminating herd was found strolling leisurely down Old Stagecoach. Luckily, the pack animals stick close together and directing them home safely wasn’t much trouble. As for the fencing problem, it was fixed by moving the battery to a post above the woodchucks’ reach. “Everyday is a learning experience for us,” says Metzker. “We’ve had so much help and support from others. Friends have donated everything from tractors to a fresh-water supply.”
Yet, things on the ol’ farm haven’t been quite the same lately. It seems to have lost some of its charm. The question is: where have all the Herefords gone? Word is they’ve moved on to greener pastures, otherwise known as your local purveyor. Ancona’s, for instance, carries some of those cuts of beef from the erstwhile herd.
For many of us familiar with this corner of Ridgebury, the absence of the picturesque roan-and-white profiles has certainly been missed. Fortunately, with a successful year behind them, beef-meisters Williams and Metzger were given another year’s lease from the commission. They have kept themselves busy revitalizing the pastures. Fresh clover has been planted, and a hive of honey bees has been brought in to pollinate the apple orchard. All of this, of course, is to enhance the grazing experience for the new Herefords that will be arriving this spring. We’re happy to have you.