It calls for 80 hour work weeks, a committed relationship with Mother Nature, dedication, total allegiance, consummate resilience and a desire to get up again and again, overcome the struggle, succeed, thrive and take pleasure in an honest job, done well. That’s the job description that 62 year-old farmer Jay Medlyn fits perfectly. He sows the seeds, tills the fields and harvests the crops just like his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather have been doing on the family owned land, on Leetes Island Road since 1880.
Medlyn calls his 32-acre farm the “…best place on earth,” however, his livelihood, his job, his family’s legacy and his way of life are all being threatened, so is fighting for what he believes is right.
For decades, farms in Connecticut have been vulnerable due to high taxes, inability to get dependable workers, land development and encroachment of big business. Medlyn has been able to overcome these obstacles however, in the summer of 2012, just before Super Storm Sandy hit the shoreline with pulverizing waves and devastating flooding, a controversial earthen berm in the Washburn Preserve was removed by the Branford Land Trust (BLT); this is when Medlyn’s real trials and tribulations began.
Medlyn asserts that the removal of the historic berm has caused substantial saltwater flooding to his land, specifically his fresh water pond used to irrigate his crops. He contends the berm was removed without permits and the correct paperwork needed to do so and he filed a suit in the New Haven Superior Court against the BLT in October of 2015.
Medlyn says that when the berm was dismantled and removed, an elevated wooded walkway above the estuary floor was erected in its place leaving Medlyn’s Farm and neighboring property exposed to saltwater flooding complications.
The BLT contends that flooding in the area pre-dates the removal of what they term the “breached” berm. Instead, they credit rising sea levels, a period of coastal storm frequency and extended periods of draughts for intensifying the flooding.
“Ideally I would like the berm to be replaced by the Branford Land Trust and the damage to my farm repaired,” says Medlyn. “My main thing is that if you cause damage to someone’s property, you have to correct the situation, either with money, or repair or in this case bringing city water to my farm. I just want the right thing to be done, and no one wants to step up to the plate and get it done. It’s disappointing.”
Medlyn adds, “The town, the state and federal government all talk about it, but nothing is getting done.”
Losing close to 80 percent of his corn crops as well as other harvests, Medlyn has peppered Branford and surrounding communities with his cry for help in the form of signs, which state “Save Medlyn Farm”.
“If I go under the community would be devastated. My customers all support me, but it gets harder and harder every single day and I am not sure there is a future here for my son to be a fifth generation farmer,” says Medlyn with a forlorn tone. “Right now I farm day by day and hope that I can continue for the next 10 years. I’ve been doing this my whole life and I am too old to do anything else. I love it and I am willing to face the struggle, I just want what is right to be done.”
Medlyn adds, “I was born on my farm and I hope to die on my farm.”
Currently the lawsuit filed by Medlyn is ongoing.