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New Coggeshall Farm Barn Keeps Inching Towards Reality

Big donation from Bristol Marine makes huge difference.

Thanks to $150,000 in matching funding from Bristol Marine and its owner Gerry Lenfest, Coggeshall Farm Museum is one step closer to erecting a new barn on its 48-acre property. 

The barn is a critical building block for the Farm’s future. It will give staff and volunteers the ability to better care for the Farm’s rare, heritage breed livestock. The barn will also house space for educational programming so outreach can take place on a year-round basis, particularly to schoolchildren. The only living history farm in Rhode Island, Coggeshall Farm is a working restoration of a late 18th century farm where visitors can experience life in a pre-industrial era, enjoy a pastoral setting, and learn about sustainable farming practices. 

“At Bristol Marine, a significant part of our company’s purpose is giving back to the community,” said Bristol Marine President Andy Tyska.“Coggeshall Farm Museum is an absolute gem of our community. We have been engaged with the Farm for years, for its survival truly depends on the public’s support.” 

The matching funds from Bristol Marine and Lenfest, which are being utilized for day-to-day operations as well as launching the centerpiece new-barn project, are only the most recent contribution in a longstanding relationship between these two Bristol organizations. 

Twelve years ago, Tyska read about the Farm’s need for support in the local paper and got his company involved by providing a team of oxen. Today, the entire staff of Bristol Marine helps out—during annual workdays to move hay or paint or do construction—and Tyska serves as president of the Farm’s Board.   

According to Coggeshall’s Executive Director Jon Larason, a new barn will dramatically increase the Farm’s capacity both to preserve and house more heritage livestock and to educate more individuals about Rhode Island’s past and the sustainable farming practices that are so relevant today.  

School groups from throughout New England are frequent visitors, and the Farm also attracts international visitors and groups from as far afield as Hawaii. However, 15-20 percent of group visits are cancelled due to weather. At present, the only indoor space for programs is inside Coggeshall’s 18th century farmhouse, whose small rooms only accommodate groups of fewer than 10 people. 

According to Andy Tyska, the first stage of the new-barn project is completing a feasibility study and establishing a concept for the structure. Once that work is completed in early summer 2014, construction estimates will be gathered and a capital campaign will be launched. The hope is to break ground sometime in 2015. 

The Farm launches its new-barn project on the eve of the busy spring season, when the weather turns warm and regular programming can resume. The popular Saturday morning “Breakfast in the Barnyard” program begins in late April, when visitors of all ages help with morning chores while learning about farm life and its animals by hunting for eggs, milking the cows, turning out the turkeys, and enjoying Jonnycakes cooked on the 1790s hearth of the farmhouse. The Farm’s Sheep & Fiber Festival takes place in May, and the Annual Harvest Fair returns in October. 

For more information about Coggeshall Farm Museum and to access a calendar of its upcoming events, please visit  www.coggeshallfarm.org.

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