Cheshire Hollow Farm is a working farm located at 1559 Peck Lane, in Cheshire, Connecticut. The farm is operated by John Romanik, Jr. and his wife Dawn Cestaro, both of whom are life-long Cheshire residents.
Cheshire Hollow Farm is home to a variety of animals, including miniature horses, miniature cattle, pot-bellied pigs, goats, chickens, and rabbits. Seasonal goods are sold on the farm, including pumpkins and Christmas trees. Cheshire Hollow Farm also hosts school field trips, a summer camp, private tours, and children's parties at the Birthday Barn. The farm also buys as sells livestock at market.
Farm Histo ry
As the bedding plant capital of the world, Cheshire, Connecticut, understandably has a rich history in farming. However, the beginnings of Cheshire Hollow Farm are actually rooted in mining. During the 1800s, Cheshire had become the site of several barite mines, yielding a mineral commonly used in paint manufacturing. In 1864, the Cheshire Mining and Manufacturing Co. opened the first barite mine in northern Cheshire, but had abandoned it by 1871 due to financial difficulties. From 1876 to 1877, the Stamford Manufacturing Co. operated the site but quickly pulled out in response to low ore reserves and the high costs of mining.
In 1911, German immigrants Ferdinand and Julie-Anna (née Woeke) Krampitz purchased 96 acres off of Peck Lane for their model family farm. They raised nine children on the farm; six girls and three boys. Like many family farms of the time, the Krampitz farm started from humble beginnings, with only eight acres of tillable land and one horse. The family delivered produce to the Waterbury farm market daily, by means of their horse and wagon. On return trips, it is claimed father Ferdinand Krampitz would fall asleep in the wagon, but return safely home under the guidance of his horses.
Krampitz Family Photo, February 1925
Ferdinand A. and Julie-Anna Krampitz had nine children: Edward, F. August "Butz", Adolph "Archie", Emma, Kitty, Aileen, Augusta, Wilhelmina "Minnie", and Ann.
In 1940, sons Adolph “Archie” and August “Butz” Krampitz took over the family farm following the passing of their parents. Under their ownership, the farm expanded into a booming business. Forty acres of land were made cultivable, much of it being double-cropped. Tractors rolled in to replace the horses and 3,000 feet of pipe was purchased for their new irrigation system. Archie and Butz raised many native vegetables, but were known for their sweet corn and strawberries. Their crop also included tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, beans, squash, and melons. Eventually, flowering plants were added to their line as well.
The Krampitz Farm expanded again when the brothers opened the Krampitz Farm Market on Meriden-Waterbury Road to sell their vegetables and flowers. Six new greenhouses were added in order to keep up with both wholesale and retail demand.
In 1976, however, the Krampitz family faced a harsh reality when their brother Butz passed away. In their advanced age and without children, Archie and his sister Wilhelmina “Minnie” Krampitz had watched much of Cheshire's farmland fall victim to developers. The Krampitzes were dedicated to maintaining farm life on the property, and eagerly participated in Connecticut’s Purchase of Development Rights program in 1978. Under the program, the farm was permanently protected from development and the Krampitzes were paid a lump sum equivalent to its value if bought by a developer.
Archie and Minnie continued living on the property with their German shepherd Zev until they had decided it was time to sell. John Romanik Sr. purchased the Krampitz farm under the condition that Archie and Minnie could live out their lives on the property and that the land would continued to be used for farming purposes. Archie passed away at age 90 in 2000 and Minnie died some four years later.
In 2005, Romanik's son, John Romanik Jr., moved onto the property and renovated the 130 year-old farmhouse. In 2009, Romanik, Jr. married Dawn Cestaro of Cheshire. The couple had hopes to live and work the farm with their initial dreams of opening a pre-school. Instead, John and Dawn decided to open the Birthday Barn in 2010, which hosts farm-themed parties for children. Over time, John and Dawn have expanded Cheshire Hollow Farm's operations to further engage children and adults with farm life. In addition to birthday parties, Cheshire Hollow Farm now offers field trips, a summer camp, and private tours. The farm also sells pumpkins in October and Christmas trees and wreaths during the holiday season.
John Jr. has three children: Esther, Tracie, and Jarritt. Esther currently lives in Boston, Mass., and Tracie is a recent graduate of the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. Jarritt is a student at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire. Dawn has one son, Joseph Greco, who is proudly serving his country in the United States Air Force. John Sr. and Dawn's mother, Maryann, also live with their children on the farm. The Romanik family shares the farm with their dogs, Abby, Shayla, and Marty.