West Hartford resident State Sen. Beth Bye takes over the top job at Auerfarm effective Jan. 4, 2016.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford resident Beth Bye, who has been a Connecticut state senator since 2010 (D-5th) and currently serves as head of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, is starting the new year off with an exciting new job. The Board of Directors of Auerfarm announced Monday that Bye has been appointed the 4-H education center’s new executive director effective Jan. 4, 2016.
Bye said she wasn’t actively looking for a full-time job, but when she learned that Auerfarm Executive Director Jack Hasegawa was retiring at the end of 2015, she was quick to apply for what she said is a “very special job.”
“I’ve been involved with the farm for years,” Bye said. She worked closely with Auerfarm when she served as a consultant for the Bloomfield Public Schools helping to develop the farm-themed Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School. Bye has also served on Auerfarm’s Board of Directors in the past.
Bye, who has run several other non-profits, said she is very excited about carrying on the legacy of Beatrice Fox Auerbach, who donated the 120 acres of land that is now Auerfarm. “She wanted the farm to be all about education and recreation. The educational part is already very strong, and the recreation has great potential,” Bye said.
An Eagle Scout has recently worked to create good hiking trails to the top of Auerfarm’s apple orchard, and Bye said the trails will also be great for cross country skiing. “You get up to the top of the hill and there’s a 360-degree view of the region,” she said.
The orchards may also serve a greater purpose than as a hiking/cross country skiing destination, Bye said. Auerfarm is already the site of a Foodshare garden that grows more than two tons of fresh local produce that is given back to the community. “We could do more. Imagine a Foodshare orchard,” Bye said.
Auerfarm already serves more than 10,000 area children through schools and other programs. It is also the site of a vibrant community garden.
Although Auerfarm is physically located in Bloomfield, “It’s really for the whole region,” Bye said. “It’s such a great gathering place,” she said, and one that not enough people really know about.
Auerfarm is already part of the UConn Cooperative Extension System, and Bye said that she is grateful for that available expertise. She said she is also looking forward to working collaboratively with other local farms.
With the omnipresent role of technology in our daily lives, getting “outside in nature, to plant and to harvest” is even more essential, Bye said.
“We enthusiastically welcome Beth’s experience, expertise and commitment to our mission,” Auerfarm Board of Directors Chairman Robert Lyle said in a news release. “With an unwavering dedication to improving access to education for all children, her successful non-profit management and leadership skills will surely help the Farm take the next steps to increase programming and access for the whole community.”
Bye’s position as a state senator is supposed to be part-time, she said, and now that her kids are older and out of the house she said she has the time to devote to another position. “Luckily farms start early in the morning, and the legislature meets in the afternoon,” Bye said. She knows she will need to use vacation time during special sessions, but said it’s all about balancing.
Bye has spent a majority of her career working in the early childhood education while concurrently serving as an elected official. She worked with CREC to help open the School for Young Children on Asylum Hill (now called Museum Magnet) and also developed Project Choice Early Beginnings. She is the former director of the School for Young Children at the University of Saint Joseph and Trinity College’s Community Childcare. She also served as a state legislator in West Hartford’s 19th district and on the West Hartford Board of Education.
The public is invited to a welcoming reception for Bye at Auerfarm on Thursday, Jan. 28, from 4:30 – 6 p.m. Auerfarm is located at 158 Auer Farm Rd., Bloomfield. Visit www.auerfarm.org for more information.
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