Stephanie (Bartus) ’97 and Greg Lesnik ’97: The Field House Farm

Stephanie (Bartus) ’97 and Greg Lesnik ’97: The Field House Farm

Stephanie (Bartus)’97 and Gregory Lesnik ’97, MD, are the owners of The Field House Farm, a sustainable operation on the grounds of their restored 1720s farmhouse in Madison, Conn. For about the last decade, they have been practicing humane and responsible farming and animal care with a focus on community education.

Their 10-acre farm — which is home to chickens, heritage turkeys, Shetland and Hampshire sheep, dairy cows, honeybees, Alpine goats, pigs, and a donkey as well as plots for vegetables — is the fruition of the couple’s long-envisioned dream for their
family of six.

“We were just disgusted with what we were feeding our kids,” Stephanie said about the time in their lives when their children were small and being fed dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and Go-Gurts. She had been a busy mom, working as a nurse part-time while Greg was finishing medical school in Albany, N.Y.

“On a resident’s salary, we just couldn’t feed our kids the way we wanted to — processed food was just against everything we both believed in,” she said. Greg took a residency position at Yale-New Haven Hospital and it was then they realized they had to look for a farm, something Stephanie and Greg had always wanted, even back while they were dating as first-year students at Fairfield.

“My husband was the first person I met [on campus] — next to my roommate — we were both library dorks,” Stephanie said with a laugh, admitting that in their home they have a framed picture of the DiMenna-Nyselius library. Homebodies at heart, the pair — Stephanie a nursing major and Greg a biology major — enjoyed Fairfield, but hit the books really hard, too. Stephanie played varsity soccer during her first semester and Greg was in a band, Suprox, that played the ultimate annual stage — Clam Jam. The couple, originally from more rural parts of the state, pledged that they would stay close to their Polish families, live on a farm and have a son named Kasimir. Six months after graduation they were engaged and the following year they were married.

But, finding affordable farmland on the Connecticut coastline was trickier than they imagined.

“Greg kept sending me photos of this amazing house we couldn’t afford,” Stephanie said, but then she caved, toured the storied farmhouse with her realtor, and fell in love with the sprawling fields and barnyards herself. “It was everything we could have wanted.”
In pretty short order, they purchased the property and Stephanie ordered huge flocks of chickens and turkeys. She then had to learn to slaughter, process and butcher if their family was going to eat.

“It was such a whirlwind. I started going to slaughter houses and other farms and, you know, crying with my kids when I had to kill my first chicken,” she said. Stephanie quickly adopted an ‘out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new’ policy to keep the cycle of life going.

“If I was getting rid of all the meat birds and putting them in the freezer, then I would get all new layers and we would have baby chicks,” she continued, adding that the respectful treatment of her animals has always been paramount.

These days, Greg is a practicing physician in Norwich, Conn. and specializes in ear, nose and throat surgery, while Stephanie runs the day-to-day operations on the farm.

“There’s really not a typical day here,” Stephanie said. Her schedule can involve anything from hosting cooking classes with local guest chefs where students learn to cook a chicken from the coop to the platter; to mucking stalls and shearing sheep for fiber to weave rugs; to running a youth education workshop and beyond.

And the kids have adjusted. Any one of the four — Ally, Aniella, Maggie and Kasimir — regularly do the chores, which include harrowing fields with the tractor, milking a cow by hand and helping out with this or that.

“This really started with what was best for our kids,” Stephanie said as she brushed newly fallen snow off her donkey’s fur. “But, the struggle to find healthy food isn’t going anywhere. For me, to be able to look at somebody and say ‘this is what’s in this product and exactly how it was grown’ is a kind of trust and transparency that’s been lost in the commercial food industry.” ●F