This account was developed from historical materials in the Ambler Farm archives as well as materials provided by Ambler Farm.
This Saturday evening, Wilton will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Friends of Ambler Farm, the stewards charged with overseeing the development and direction of Ambler Farm. Of course the history of the farm itself stretches back much further than simply the time under the leadership of the Friends⎯in fact it dates back to 1794. But the guidance and dedication of the organization in establishing the current incarnation of Ambler Farm, and the forethought of those initial committee members as well as the dedicated volunteers who have continued to steer the mission makes Ambler Farm the unique place it is.
Wilton voters approved the purchase of Ambler Farm at the 1999 Town Meeting, in what was the most significant open space purchase in Wilton’s history. The purchase followed the death of Betty Ambler in June 1998; she was the sixth generation and the last of her family on one of the few remaining farms in Wilton.
At the time there were 31 acres of hilltop meadow, two rambling houses, two barns, and other typical farm buildings. A similar open farm on Belden Hill Rd. had been lost to developers just a year or two earlier. As a result, many Wilton citizens pleaded with the town to intervene and preserve Ambler land as open space. After extensive negotiations, 22 acres were purchased for $2.6 million.
At the time of the property purchase, the Town of Wilton lacked the resources or people to dedicate to the farm. A volunteer group of individuals was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to oversee the property and they became the steering committee. This committee decided the farm would be best served over the long term by a nonprofit organization that could more easily raise money and develop a use plan. This led to the formation of the nonprofit Friends of Ambler Farm.
The Farm is under deed restrictions to preserve the significant buildings and farm lands for educational and agricultural use by the public. Over the years the town has approved various bonding proposals to restore buildings on the property including the white carriage barn.
The farmhouse served as the home for the Raymond and Ambler families for nearly 200 years. The deed calls for it to be restored in a way that preserves its architectural character and makes it safe for use by the community. Over the last few decades, this historic structure had deteriorated significantly due to deferred maintenance.
By December 2010, structural repairs and stabilization of the front section of the house had been completed. Interior pieces were catalogued and stored for future use. Renovation resumed in November 2012 through funds from the Town of Wilton that were matched by private donations. The final phase of restoration will involve completion of the first floor interior of the farmhouse so that it can be used for current and future educational and community programs as well as administrative offices for the Friends of Ambler Farm.
With an overall goal of $2 million, funding for the farmhouse restoration has come from Town bonds, state grants, private foundations and individual donors. The Friends of Ambler Farm are extremely grateful for the community’s support, particularly the recent grant from the Elizabeth-Raymond Ambler Trust. In order to complete the project and open the building to the public, the Friends of Ambler Farm must raise an estimated $75,000.
1794 Josiah Raymond and his son Platt Raymond build two homes and establish a 300-acre farm.
1799 The Raymond-Ambler Farmhouse is built by Josiah Raymond and occupied by the Raymonds and their Ambler Descendants until 1999.
1899-1900 The red horse barn and ice house are built.
1998 Betty Ambler lives on the farm until her death at the age of 79.
1999 The Town of Wilton purchases the property from the Ambler Trust. Renovations are made to the Red Barn.
2001 A group of volunteers organize the first Ambler Farm Day.
2005 The Friends of Ambler Farm (FoAF) is established.
2005 The FoAF holds the first Holiday Greens Sale as a community gathering and fundraiser for the farm.
2005 The FoAF hold the first week-long summer program for 29 Wilton children. The program now includes 830 kids from 13 towns.
2007 The Carriage Barn is renovated. Kevin Meehan is hired as program and property manager and moves into the yellow house at the farm. The farm welcomes the addition of two bunnies and a number of chickens. The FoAF establishes an Apprentice Program for 12 students. The program now includes 130 kids.
2008 The FoAF hires the first farmer; Jonathan Kirschner is named director of agriculture in 2012. The farm begins serving as a venue for educational fieldtrips for students from Wilton and surrounding towns. The FoAF begin tapping trees for maple syrup and produce 162 bottles. The farm now produces as many as 1,530 bottles annually that are sold at the Farmstand, the Farmer’s Market and the Village Market.
2009 The iconic Red Barn is fully restored.
2010 The farm welcomes the addition of sheep.
2012 The farm welcomes the addition of goats.
2015 Daisy, the farm’s Flemish giant rabbit gives birth to a litter of seven bunnies who all reside at the farm. Ambler Farm attracts more than 15,000 visitors each year through a rich array of activities and programs.