Hugs and Citations Mark Farewell Party for Caty Poole
Massaro Farm supporters gathered under the new pavilion March 31 for a luncheon to celebrate and thank Executive Director Caty Poole on her last day in that role. After leading the operation for a decade, Poole has decided to step back from the day-to-day operations.
In a brief formal ceremony, State Rep. Mary Welander, and her counterpart in the Senate, Sen. James Maroney, presented a citation from the General Assembly, thanking Poole for her years of service; Board President Alan Tyma read a citation from Town Hall. Volunteers and other board members presented her with personalized gifts, including a beautiful large quilt made by Massaro board member Sandy Stein, with a red barn motif.
Poole got a warm embrace from Farmer Steve Munno, who had started the farm operation a few years before Poole came on, and is now assuming the role of Farm Director. He said Massaro Farm consisted originally of two organizations – Massaro Community Farm and the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – that grew together and merged in 2019. This shift in leadership is a good time to complete that merger and evaluate next steps. He said more responsibilities will be spread among staff.
Massaro has about eight staff-members year-round, but that number grows to over 20 in the summer.
Poole joined the farm in 2012, first as a part-time outreach and development coordinator, but soon after as its executive director. She and Farmer Steve, along with committed volunteers from the community, helped the farm grow from “a whole big patch of weeds” into a regional powerhouse promoting organic agricultural practices and championing fresh and local produce for all.
In addition to growing healthy food and providing it in places where it is needed, the farm also developed a robust educational program, both for children of all ages as well as adults. Growth is not only outwardly visible by the number of greenhouses, the additional parking lot, the refurbished red barn; it also more than doubled the number of CSA program participants, up from initially 125 to 300. It increased its reach from initially a Woodbridge/Ansonia-based operation to involvement in all Valley towns, Hamden, Orange and Milford and West Haven.
The need for fundraising also led to a series of popular events, such as the Dinner on the Farm; concerts and movie nights and more. “We are responsive to the needs and interests of the community,” Munno said.
Massaro donates organic produce to a number of hunger relief organizations, including the Senior Center and the CT Food Bank. They deliver produce to local restaurants; they have a “drop” at the District Building in New Haven. They participate in Farmers Markets in the area.
Poole “retired” once before, about two years ago, when she and her newly-retired husband decided to travel. But that retirement didn’t last long, and she resumed her old role. “Please, no ‘retirement’ banner,” she said, only partly joking. What she is stepping away from, at least for now, is working full-time, every day. Poole, who enrolled in a Master beekeeping program, said she will continue to usher the beekeeping workshops at the farm, at least this season.
In her own remarks, she talked about growing up in suburban New Jersey, but with a backyard garden, a connection to the land that she experienced from her grandparents. She then went on to raise her children and make a living in corporate settings. “This job allowed me to put my passion for farming and my skills together,” she said.
Similarly, Munno said he will keep farming. “While my role will shift a bit with Caty’s departure, I’ll still have my hands in the soil here and my overall focus will remain on ensuring that our programs and offerings are delivering on our mission: keep farming, feed people, build community,” he wrote in a press release.