It began with Carmen’s dream…
Over forty years ago, actress and environmentalist Carmen Mathews had a dream for the land she loved. She wanted New Pond Farm’s pastures, woodlands and wetlands to serve as an oasis of beauty where people of all ages could connect with the natural world in a meaningful way and at the same time learn about the importance of a small working farm.
1975 Her dream of sharing the land began with a small summer camp for inner-city children. Using a refurbished turkey coop, the campers from NY City would join Carmen and counselors for a joyous 10-day stay where they would step into the boots of a farmer: feeding cows, collecting warm eggs, spinning fleece, learning about honeybees, harvesting fresh vegetables, and helping with chores. They delighted in discovering the property’s natural habitats, they’d swim, hike, fish-and have loads of old-fashioned fun.
1985 Carmen realized the camp was just a beginning. With the help of the Natural Science for Youth Foundation, she put together a Board of Directors and received a 501(c)(3) status for an independent, year-round environmental education center. Hands-on field trip programs for area school groups began, along with classes for children and families. The camp expanded to include youngsters from surrounding towns, and together in a nurturing environment, these children, from different socioeconomic backgrounds, broke down barriers and developed understandings and friendships.
1993 The turkey coop was replaced with an official bunkhouse, complete with vast improvements like running water, heat and bathrooms. Our school field trip programs flourished and our dedicated staff had the joy of sharing environmental, historical and agricultural programs with 5,000 children a year. Our membership continued to grow and enjoy seasonal festivals, classes and birthday parties, along with the summer camp. In honor of our founder, we also began to celebrate the Arts. For more than a decade our celebrated Shakespeare programs have provided fantastic opportunities for more than 200 talented middle school and high school actors.
2004 Thanks to our first Capital Campaign, $3 million was raised to strengthen our endowment, to upgrade our aging infrastructure and to build a spectacular Learning Center on the site of the original coop and bunkhouse. For the past decade, the Learning Center has been the critical hub of our educational efforts, humming with activity throughout the seasons. It is home to our adult lecture series, culinary programs, knitting groups, art and photography shows, barn dances, Harvest Dinners, classes for children and families, and hands-on learning for school groups.
2007 Thanks to the high quality of care shared with our animals, our dairy products, and property, we were designated as one of Connecticut’s Dairy Farms of Distinction. We sell freshly pasteurized milk and yogurt from our Dairy Annex.
Today As we celebrate our 35th Anniversary we are proud of all that we have accomplished and we thank all who made this possible. The Board and Staff are excited about taking the next step. We are developing a strategic plan that will carry us into the future. We are committed to our Founder’s original vision of being an exceptional small and personal education center, sharing environmental, historical and agricultural lessons with area schools and with members of the community, as well as celebrating the arts. We also recognize the importance of strengthening the endowment that provides our financial stability and we welcome your support.
Conservation Easement from Carmen Mathews
In 1995 Carmen gave a conservation easement on 80-acres to the Redding Land Trust. A devoted steward of the land, she wanted to preserve the open vista, with views into the foothills of the Berkshires, and she wanted her beloved property to serve as a model for enlightened land use.
Carmen believed “small is beautiful” and so do we. We make the most of our 102-acres by keeping our livestock, pastures, and gardens in balance. During the growing season, chickens free-range within alternate “yards”, cows rotationally graze beyond the barnyard, and sheep browse Astronomy Hill. Through our programs, using exceptional outdoor classrooms, we have inspired a new generation of stewards to care for the land.
Founders and Visionaries
Carmen Sylva Mathews was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and made her professional debut with the Stratford-on-Avon Shakespearean Company. Early on, she performed many classical parts with Maurice Evans including Ophelia in Hamlet and Queen to his Richard II. Her busy acting career spanned 55 years and she starred on Broadway, regional stages, and in countless television plays and movies.
Carmen’s passion for the theatre was matched by her enthusiasm for protecting the land around her. She was committed to environmental education. For the past thirty-five years her property has been the home of New Pond Farm Education Center, and its outdoor classrooms have helped people of all ages to gain an appreciation and understanding of the natural world.
Sally Trippe was instrumental in the founding and evolution of the Education Center. An active environmentalist and former teacher, Sally helped to guide the organization’s mission for two decades, and served as the Board President after Carmen’s passing, from 1995-2005. Her great interest in Native American heritage is responsible for our authentically recreated Woodland Indian encampment as well as the beautiful Gathering Place, which houses an impressive collection of living artifacts. Sally served as the Foundation’s president for ten years during which time she spearheaded the successful three million dollar Capital Campaign and the creation of the Learning Center which is such an integral part of our programs.