Flora and Fauna

A fter a cold, wet spring, B&B Flower Farm seems ready for summer. The rain has helped, leaving the sloping lawn so green it looks photoshopped.

“B&B” stands for Bob and Barbara, as in Bob and Barbara Newkirk, who have been running the farm for 19 years. “We do ice cream, hay rides for the kids in the fall… Last year we had 1,400 kids up here,” Bob says.

Different outbuildings for different purposes dot the landscape. There’s the combination ice cream and gift shop, which sells local Buck’s frozen treats and vibrant terrariums made by grandson Tyler Newkirk, plus other knick-knacks. There’s the barn for boarding local horses, with the pasture beyond it. There’s the farm stand, which in high summer sells produce.

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“We’re the last working farm in West Haven,” says Bob, looking out over the view. According to employee Tracy Raccio, the farm is situated on the second-highest point in town, making sunsets superlative.

The greenhouse used to be three times as large, and what is now the family house once contained the gift shop. “Due to the way the world is going and economic conditions, we had to change our whole operation,” Bob explains. While the family used to grow everything themselves, now they get their plants from local suppliers. There’s a greater emphasis on seasonality, with “seven to eight tons” of pumpkins sold for Halloween as well as Christmas trees for the holidays. Additionally, the farm hosts birthday parties for children, for whom the gently rolling hills and many animals are especially attractive.

At B&B there’s an unlikely coexistence between different species. Two yellow labs hold down the fort at the stable, benevolently sniffing Patches the rabbit, who wanders freely over the property. Four nanny goats pass the time in an enclosure next to Seamus, a tall black horse who’s retired from his ride-giving days. Leia the goat is especially friendly with him, but Seamus is friendly with everyone, snuffling every proffered hand like it contains treats.

The goats, like all goats, have a tendency to nibble at shirt cuffs and sleeves, and they are nimble enough to liberate phones from pockets (as I found out). Two enormous Belgian draft horses, both nearing 30 years old, doze and graze in the field at the base of the hill, next to which Newkirk is growing hay. It’s ripe, and the color is so green it’s almost blue. Bob plans on harvesting it any day now, to be used for animal feed.

“The main thing is having the kids come up here for field trips,” Bob says, noting that the farm’s location in West Haven makes it an attractive place for school outings. Bob wants to make one of his hayride wagons handicapped-accessible, especially for returned veterans.

Bob, who is originally from Seymour, worked in construction for much of his life and built the majority of the farm’s structures himself. As a child he spent time on his grandfather’s farm, but B&B Flower Farm was actually Barbara’s brainchild, fittingly situated in her hometown of West Haven.

Even though he used to build houses for a living, Bob says watching neighboring properties get developed has only strengthened his desire to preserve the farm. “This was a big farming community at one time, but no more.” He points out the place where a chicken farm and a turkey farm used to be. Now, the only turkeys around are the wild ones that skulk across the fields, along with occasional deer and coyote, the latter being the main reason why there’s now only one human-friendly rabbit on the farm.

Bob takes special joy in the special joy of the children who come by. “When we get on through here with a bunch of kids in a wagon, you can hear them talking, saying ‘Oh wow, we’re going in the forest.’” Technically, he says, “It’s a wooded area in the back of my farm. But they just enjoy it so much.”

B&B Flower Farm
668 Jones Hill Rd, West Haven (map)
Daily noon-9pm through 10/31
(203) 937-9794

Written and photographed by Anne Ewbank. Image #5 depicts Tyler Newkirk.

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A California native and world traveler, Anne came to New Haven for graduate school and discovered that New England is as cold as everyone said it was. She loves reading books, playing guitar, exploring new towns and taking road trips but only as long as she gets to pick the music.

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