Fighting for Organic
Michael Keilty of Morris has been farming all of his life, and advocating sustainable and humane agriculture practices that have taken root from Maine to West Virginia through his work with livestock producers, veterinarians, and extension educators. As a sustainable agriculture research associate in UConn’s Department of Plant Science, Keilty was at the forefront of a movement to enhance the health of food animals—and humans—by reducing the excessive use of antibiotics, hormones, and steroids. For nearly 20 years, he has promoted the use of medicinal plants and the establishment of community gardens in urban settings, which led to the establishment of the nonprofit Connecticut Community Gardening Association.
Maple Spring Farm, where he has lived with his wife, Fran, since 1974, was the first organic farm in Litchfield County. On its 35 acres, he continues to raise Cheviot sheep, a breed prized for its wool—which is sold at the couple’s Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot—along with cows, hens, and vegetables and herbs, grown using a French intensive method of rotating the beds to enrich the soil. His sheep are part of the same flock his father tended for the artist Lauren Ford, one of the founders of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem. “I have never known a February or March without lambs and I look forward to it every year,” Keilty said. “The first lamb of the year is a sign of hope and rejoicing, and a time to plant potatoes. “