All farms start with a dream. They start with passion. Firefly Farms is the realization of a dream to save critically endangered Heritage breeds and a passion to give them the best lives possible. Firefly Farms is fulfilling our desire to restore abandoned farmland and woods so fireflies will once more fill the night. This dream brought an entire family together with a shared purpose and cause.
Founded by the Tillman-Brown Family in June of 2011, Firefly Farms is a 135 acre farm in scenic North Stonington, Connecticut. The land was formerly a YMCA day camp that our family has been carefully restoring and repurposing into the working farm it was 70 years ago. As you stand on the old basketball court, you can see the once derelict Arts & Crafts building which is now a fine chicken coop, the main office has been turned into a workshop and farm stand, and the cafeteria building is being converted into a USDA poultry processing house. Closing your eyes you can hear the low of the cows, a rooster crow, and the many noises of pigs happily going about their business. All of it working in perfect harmony.
Firefly Farms has grown from an original herd of five piglets to a diverse number of swine; Mulefoots, a Red Wattle, Guinea Hogs, and Tri-Heritage. We have a growing herd of Randall Lineback cattle and a flock of Dorking chickens. Each of our breeds is either critically endangered or threatened according to The Livestock Conservancy. This makes every animal precious in its own right and critical to the overall survival of the breed. It is our mission to make sure each animal has a quality life. It may seem to be a conflict that we raise these rare animals for meat, but the reason that they are endangered is because they lost popularity in favor of other breeds. To once again make them a household name, they need renewed purpose which means raising them for their original intent, food.
Our pigs live in large groups in the woods, foraging, sleeping in pig piles, and enjoying the very essence of being a pig. Their supplemental food has been custom designed to remove the unnecessary fillers and soy found in even the best feeds. A local mill grinds our feed to our exact specifications. Our piglets stay with their mothers until they are naturally weaned as do our calves. Our cows have a variety of pastures to suit their needs and the chickens have chicken tractors that are moved twice daily to give them access to fresh grass. Except for protective fences, our animals get to live as their ancestors did.
We use rotational grazing which keeps the animals moving so no one area is negatively impacted by their presence. We are working to rejuvenate the soil to make it fertile again. A certified forester who specializes in woodland restoration was brought in to show us where to create new pasture and how to improve the overall health of the existing forest. Our pigs have done a wonderful job removing scrub brush and invasive species so native flora and fauna can return. They love to be turned out on new pasture with all the joys of new areas to root and wallow.
Firefly Farms first learned about being Certified Humane from Craig Floyd of Footsteps Farm, the first Humane Certified farm in Connecticut. Dugan Tillman-Brown, our farm manager, had already been implementing many of Temple Grandin’s ideas along with many of his own invention to give the animals a stress free environment. It seemed like a natural next step to become Humane Certified. The Humane Farm Animal Care goals and our goals are one and the same.
As of January 2015, all four family members work for the farm in various capacities. Van Brown handles the books and correspondences, Beth Tillman works with Dugan Tillman-Brown (Farm Manager) at Firefly Farms, and Allena Tillman-Brown does the marketing and public relations. However when the occasion calls for it, all of us have been boar wranglers, mother hens to various babies in need, educators, inventors, and much more. Each one of us loves what we are doing and appreciates the ability to use our skills and knowledge to the best advantage of Firefly Farms and our animals.
Tours can be arranged by appointment and weather permitting.