The Productive Garden
Everything Grown on Dirt Road Farm in Weston Makes Its Way to the Table
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Driving north into Weston, one feels farther and farther removed from twenty-first-century speed and stress. When your car reaches a part of the road that disappears into hard-packed dirt and gravel, you know that you have come to a different place. Such is the journey to admire the garden of Phoebe Cole-Smith.
It’s a part of town where the trees make a canopy over the road, and many of the houses date from another time. It’s quiet, except for the birds and the gentle clucking of Phoebe’s chickens, their coop positioned at one corner of her growing area, close to the vegetable patch and a cutting garden for flowers. One border near the house is accented with a row of boxes containing active beehives and, she says, at certain times of the year sap buckets hang from dozens of maple trees in the woodland area of the property. This hub of nature’s creative activity welcomes friends and family to Dirt Road Farm.
Phoebe’s relationship with growing things and raising food began early. “My mom was a great cook, and when we were small she introduced us to dandelion greens from our backyard in suburban Illinois, way before the words ‘local’ and ‘organic’ were even thought about,” she recalls. Her parents later moved to a 120-acre farm in Illinois.
“We had bees and chickens, and my mother cooked from the garden. Later on, they realized that the local high school wasn’t working out for me, and sent me to the Putney School in Vermont.”
It was there that Phoebe’s lifelong connection to food and farms solidified. Part of the program included working in the school’s barn and caring for the animals; she was hooked. Although she moved to the city for a publishing career after college, her passion for food remained unquenched.
In 1992, when the older of her two children was ready for kindergarten, the family moved to Weston. She was drawn to the rural character of the old farmhouse and the dirt road that led to it.
“I have to confess I was a little anxious about moving to the suburbs, but I loved this place,” says Phoebe. This “productive gardener,” as she calls herself, grew flowers, as is common here in Fairfield County, but she also made produce part of the plan. As her children approached high school age, she pondered the imminent empty nest, and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center). As luck would have it, she served her internship at the newly opened Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a pioneer, and now a legend, in the farm-to-table restaurant movement. Inspired, she stepped up the productivity of her own garden.