Sherman Woodward Jr (6th generation) and son-in-law Eric Demander
Clover Nook Farm is located on a hilltop near Bethany’s town center. The land was originally owned by the French family in the 1600’s, whose farm was located in what was then known as Derby-Milford. The land was used as summer pasture for livestock from the French farm.
In 1765, David French married Hannah Lines of Bethany. The couple built a homestead on the French family’s Bethany land. David fought in the Revolutionary War defending Boston, surviving to return home to raise his family and work the land which is now known as Clover Nook Farm
In 1823, David’s youngest son, Harry, built another home on the farm. This house still stands at the center of the farm and has been lived in by the many generations of the family since. Harry served as First Selectman for the town, as well as a representative in the state legislature.
After Harry’s death in 1843, his only daughter, Jane, and her husband, Justus Peck, moved back to the farm to take over the dairy and other operations on the farm. Justus became involved in many town affairs, not the least of which was the Bethany-Woodbridge Agricultural Society. For many years the group held an annual fair, the location of which was alternated between a farm in Woodbridge and Clover Nook Farm. The field where the fair was held is, to this day, still referred to as the “Fair Lot” on the farm.
During Justus and Jane’s later years, their daughter Charlotte and her husband, Samuel Woodward, a schoolteacher from Watertown, lived on the farm and began to take over the running of the farm. Samuel became quite involved in government affairs, serving as the town’s First Selectman for 22 years, as well as its representative in the state legislature. Samuel and Charlotte had three children, Florence, Daisy, and Sherman.
After attending Connecticut Agricultural College (now known as UConn’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources) Sherman returned to the farm to take over and expand the farm operations. This included the dairy, a large poultry and egg business, peach and apple orchards, as well as vegetable production. Sherman was involved in several state and local agricultural groups, including the New Haven Agricultural Experiment Station. He and his wife, Margaret, had three children, Helen, Marion, and Sherman Jr.
As his father’s health began to decline, Sherman Jr., with the help of Marion’s husband, Dudley Sandell, took over the dairy operation. Sherman Jr. and Dudley were both active in state and local Farm Bureau, Dudley holding office in New Haven County and a member of the state board. Sherman Jr. continued with hay production as well as growing feed and sweet corn. Many town residents still fondly remember his “self-service” corn stand in front of the homestead, where people could stop and pick up corn for dinner, leaving payment in a cigar box. In 1972, the dairy herd was sold and Sherman Jr. changed focus to raising dairy replacement heifers and beef cattle.
In 1988, as Sherman Jr. readied for retirement, his daughter Deborah, and her husband, Eric Demander, moved back to the farm. In 1991, Eric left his trade to take on farming full time. Continuing hay production and raising beef cattle, Eric began expanding vegetable production. Eric and Deborah soon opened a produce market at the farm where they currently sell products grown on the farm, as well as other locally grown fruits and vegetables. In 2000, Clover Nook Farm was awarded with recognition as a Connecticut Century Farm. Eric and Deborah have two sons, Carl and Lars.
Carl graduated from the University of Delaware’s College of Agricultural and Natural Resources with a degree in Food and Resource Economics. Lars graduated from Cornell University in 2014 with a degree in Agricultural Science and a minor in agribusiness management and later a Master's degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics in 2015. Lars returned to the farm in 2015 to become a full partner with his father, Eric.
In 2016, Lars applied for and was awarded the Farm Reinvestment Grant from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture in the amount of $40,000. The grant help fund the construction of a new retail farm store. The farm was ready to expand its retail business as it brought on Lars as a full time partner. The new store has been a tremendous success as the business has grown substantially through increased customer volume and product diversity. Clover Nook Farm's meat products (beef, pork, and lamb) have become one of the most popular items available.
In 2018, Lars was recognized as Connecticut's Outstanding Young Farmer of 2018 for the growth of the farm business, conservation practices, and community engagement. Shortly after receiving the award, Clover Nook was hit directly by an EF-1 tornado on May 15, 2018. The amount of damage was extensive, including the 1840 "horse barn" being completely leveled. Recovery from the storm continued for the rest of the year, with a new storage pole barn being constructed in December 2018.
All of the generations of Clover Nook Farm acknowledge and thank the many, many friends, family members and neighbors whom have worked and helped on the farm. They have all contributed greatly to the farm’s ability to endure and thrive for over 250 years.