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New Canaan Farm Folds

Uncle Buck has farmed his Secret Gardens in New Canaan for 10 years. Until he shut down his operation this week.

 

For ten years, Randy Brown has farmed in New Canaan as "Uncle Buck." Operating as a tenant farmer he has planted gardens of flowers and vegetables on property owned by others, which he has then sold at the and .

This fall, neighbors of the property on Oenoke Ridge Rd. where Brown has been farming, filed a complaint with . The neighbors, Kathy and Peter Streinger, said that Brown was operating a commercial farm without a permit, and that his activities had caused them a, "significant private nuisance," according to an email sent to Kleppin on Dec. 15.

Kleppin, sent a letter to the owners of the property Brown farms, which said that the activities taking place required a special permit from . It also said that a failure to cease farming operations prior to obtaining the permit would result in, "formal enforcement action."

"In the ten years I have worked to bring agriculture back into New Canaan, I have had issues with landowners and neighbors before," Brown said in a Dec.21 email to Kleppin, "We knew it was the vulnerable part of our business model, acting as tenants rather than owners, but we always had faith in the knowledge that our willingness to compromise and be sensitive to any concerns that arose would be enough in most cases to work things out."

For their part, the Streingers, in the Dec. 15 email to Kleppin said, "we also do not want to hurt anyone or cause any financial harm to their business. But as you indicated, this is indeed a 'business' for our neighbor. A business for which they have no right to be operating and which has caused a significant private nuisance to us."

In phone calls Thursday, the Streingers said that the farm had grown in the last two years from a "few rows of flowers" to encompass, "every square inch" of the property, requiring the use of large farm equipment.

Brown's email to Kleppin said, "that their complaint was based on a moment in time and would ultimately be seen through."

Nonetheless, Brown said, "we are withdrawing our intent to answer the complaint, and going out of business. If this can happen here, it can happen anywhere in New Canaan, and I cannot start over again with that threat in the background."

(Editor's Note: Randy Brown is a contributor to New Canaan Patch.)

augustus sclafani December 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM
So nice how rich snobs throw someone under the bus during the Holiday Season! Surprised they didnt want to "run" him over a few more times to make sure he was done.
Augie December 23, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Streinger's claimed "we do not want to cause any financial harm to their business', yet accomplished exactly that. I guess now things will quiet down when farm tractors are replaced by giant lawn mowers and leaf blowers. 'Let them eat cake', LOL
Patrick Henry December 23, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Exactly. It's like saying "no offense, but..." before insulting someone. Guess there was nowhere to hide in their 10,000 square-foot house from all the noise next door.
NCFacts December 23, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Title could have been "Hedge fund exec shuts down famed Uncle Buck". Nice. I'm all for property rights, don't get me wrong, but seems this could have been worked out. Who knows maybe it has been debated more than the article states, but seems like a harsh fate for a local institution. Maybe a "Flower Power Protest" in front of the neighbor's.
J Bauer December 23, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Well, none of us know the details behind the situation frankly... in one sense, I love Uncle Buck - the concept and the produce! In another sense though, this is a residential area and the folks that bought the adjacent properties did so with the thought that they were moving in next to a house, not a farm - so tractors at 5am could really be a problem... imagine if you have sleeping kids being woken up that way every day, six months a year? Now, that said, I would hope that the Streiger's tried to make accomodations - maybe limiting the workday to the same schedule that contractors and landscapers are bound by in town ordances? If the Streiger's did not really do their best to try and work it out, then shame on them. Uncle Buck, best of luck to you and I hope that one day you can return! I will miss buying your prodeuce on Sunday mornings at your makeshift farmstand.
jayne benton December 23, 2011 at 02:26 PM
My kids will be devastated-we love this local farm and Uncle Buck-what a tremendous loss for our town. So incredibly generous for the land owners to loan him this land for our greater good. Too bad neighbors could not muster up a small amount of generosity themselves.
Melissa December 23, 2011 at 02:51 PM
I sure hope the Streingers at least made an effort to deal with the situation on a personal level before they started writing letters to put Uncle Buck out of business because I have learned that "what goes round, comes round".
LoveNC December 23, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Randy "Uncle Buck" Brown is one of the great men in this town. He has touched the hearts and souls of so many of us. It is disappointing that the Streingers can destroy so much. They purchased their home knowing full well there was a farm next to them, and then 7 years later decide that this was NOW an intrusion and single-handedly and unilaterally destroy a New Canaan institution. Maybe the Streingers should visit Oz for the Holidays and ask for a heart. Since they are so intent on not having anyone run a business in his neighborhood, I trust they do not perform any of his "business" from his home. Streingers...please reconsider.
Anne Wright December 23, 2011 at 04:12 PM
I'd take the sound of a tractor over those obnoxious leaf blowers any day. Furthermore, I'd have my kids out there watching to see what farming is all about. It's the natural way of life. I wonder if the Steigners know that Mr. Brown works two jobs to make ends meet and that by their complaint, they've taken away a significant part of his livelihood. Not everyone has over $7 million to spend on a fancy house!
Larry December 23, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Randy Brown: PLEASE respond to the Streigners complaint and file for the special permit from Planning and Zoning. Many, many people in our Town stand with you!
Danny December 23, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Best of luck to you Randy! I always admired what you did here in NC. To the Streingers - what goes around, comes around. Meaning I hope the bad vibes come your way very soon. This is a selfish act.
Arthur Sultan December 23, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Lyn & I will be delighted to stand with you at Planning & Zoning.
heavens sake December 23, 2011 at 11:32 PM
The barking dog next door makes more noise than a tractor in a 4 acre zone. On other hand, a multi million dollar home investment should have protections against commercial activity . Is objection ocassional tractor noise, or veggie canopy/stand and traffic ? Perhaps a solution can be found. If economy does not improve in 2012 many more may turn to local farming. Iam considering a local home brewery offering free samples. Imagine the traffic congestion. Conrad Banks will be my best customer
rough1 December 24, 2011 at 01:14 PM
This is indeed a tough call: on the one hand, you have what probably started as a "gentleman's farm" turned into a commercial venture over, what, 10 years? And all the time knowing it was illegal (w/o permit)- yet Uncle Buck continued to violate the local ordinances. Then the Streigners move in and object; on the surface they appear cold and heartless- perhaps they are- but we do not know all the background here. I am for Uncle Buck filing the necessary permit papers- bet he can get pretty much what he reasonably needs with community support.
chris December 24, 2011 at 02:20 PM
No one supports agriculture and the small farmer more than myslef, however we do have rules and just imagine if people started disobeying theses rules? A private venture is one thing however once the commercial aspect becomes part of this it changes all the dynamics. I believe every person has a right to grow and feed his family off every piece of their property. I also feel that uncle buck should go through the right channels and get the proper permits to continue what he is doing. I was so happy to see that someone was actually growing something in New Canaan! I wish more people would do what he was doing locally. Our town should actually have a community garden and I have expressed this to town officials in the past. The work of the farmer is a rewarding and humbling profession and its the backbone of our country. Uncle buck should go about getting the proper permits and pushing this in a public forum, for for many of uswould like to see him succeed.
Richard 'Doc' Ludemann December 24, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Ive had the pleasure to know "Uncle Buck" for many years and the openess of his heart to give back is heartwarming. Bringing alittle 'farming' back to NC was indeed a gift. The Streingers should be veru proud of themselves. As Melissa noted previously, what goes around comes around. Doc
Jane Himmel December 24, 2011 at 04:27 PM
I agree with chris. I, too, am a huge supporter of local agriculture. I spend more and go out of my way to buy food grown on small farms based in our region. And, I love "Uncle Buck's" products. But, to suggest that he shouldn't be following local ordinances isn't appropriate.
Randy Brown December 24, 2011 at 10:10 PM
In the interest of fairness and accuracy please take note. While it is true that I have been farming in New Canaan for ten years, the Streingers were in their home before I began to farm the field in question which was four and a half years ago. They never complained nor had a bad word to say before the incident in question, and we had no idea of any problem until notified. The New Canaan zoning code permits farming as a permissive use of residential property in New Canaan, but divides it into two catagories, commercial and non commercial farming. The former requires a permit and the latter does not. I never considered myself a commercial farmer as it was always part time and we never made a profit at it . After all the years of exposure, three locally published articles about what I do, and endless exposure at the farmers market, I would have thought that if the town considered me such they would have said something. What I resent is that if I have been in non compliance for all this time, why did no one ever bring it to our attention until now and how can we be so drastically penalized after so many grandfather years of the same activity.
J Bauer December 25, 2011 at 05:27 AM
Randy, I think you should do what you can to obtain the permits and continue to farm. If you have to make some accomodation in terms of operating hours, etc... to make peace with the neighbors, you do that in fairness. But, my guess is that you probably have enough people in town that would support you to help get it done.
heavens sake December 25, 2011 at 03:08 PM
I admire what Uncle Buck has been doing all these years in exemplifying basic values, agrarian skills and self reliance . Most in NC only know how to grow grass and poison ivy and dependent on a Keynesian existance which is doomed by time and human nature. In the end ,the Uncle Buck's will survive so let us find a way to accommodate his activity---in the not too distant future we may have to learn from Uncle Buck and trade in our BMW's for tractors.
Gerry Sterling December 25, 2011 at 04:43 PM
No one has the right to force anyone out of business. I am appalled at this kind of bullying in New Canaan. Randy has been a hard working businessman and major contributor to our New Canaan Farmers'Market We have all benefited by his efforts and hard work.I can't imagine NC without his produce and beautiful flowers. I believe, the couple who have a complaint should talk to Randy and work out a reasonable compromise. To force him out of business is a major loss to the entire community! Lionel and Gerry Sterling
Gerry Sterling December 25, 2011 at 04:44 PM
I did
Annie Livingstone December 26, 2011 at 09:17 PM
How sad for New Canaan residents, not a town that embraces locally grown products, when Fairty's left, the best cider in the world went with it, now probably the only vegetables that are truly available in New Canaan without carcinogens are gone as well, the Striengers are another example of the new element moving in with misplaced priorities. Oh well, some more McMansions can take the place of the farm with glowing lawns sprayed with herbicides that add a nice flavor to the ground water for our kids to drink.
Sheryl Shaker December 26, 2011 at 10:51 PM
Fairty's really was a charming stand. And, you're right, they had great cider. I do think Walter Stewart's does a good job sourcing local (especially CT) products.
joe January 06, 2012 at 01:33 PM
annie livingston, why don't you move! obviously the cider wasn't good enough and not enough people are as shrewd as you only buying organic goods.you sound like the type who want to dictate if your neighbor can cut down her tree. obviously, you know best. organic food is overrated!
Jeff M January 06, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Joe: Thank God you wrote! We were all concerned our village had lost its idiot. Joe, please review the comments prior to yours and you'll see (a) no one made it personal -- as you did and (b) they all had logical, well considered points to make and (c) did so in a constructive manner. We sit with bated breath in anticipation of your next utterances. Joe, *please* don't make us wait long as your logic and wisdom provide inspiration -- and marvelous, priceless entertainment.
alan gorkin January 25, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Good point.
Larry January 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I agree with Jeff M...too many pesticides in your processed food there Joe?

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