County Fare: Golden ticket helps struggling farmers

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A good Samaritan was just the ticket Kristen Tool and Chris Wheeler needed in their ongoing effort to save the family farm in Lanesborough dating to the Great Depression.

Since Chris' father, Tommy Wheeler, suddenly died 18 months ago, the couple has opened a GoFundMe account, held several tag sales and, most recently, conducted a 50/50 raffle in an effort to own the Olsen Farm outright.

The young farmers needed to raise more than $200,000 to buy out Chris' siblings and thousands of dollars more to erase estate debt inherited after the elder Wheeler's death.

The raffle ran the month of June, with Chris and Kristen selling tickets to family, friends and during three Saturdays at the Pittsfield Farmers Market.

In selling a single ticket to one man June 23, he wrote his name and started to jot down his phone number on the slip of paper and stopped.

"When he heard our story about trying to save the farm, he said he would not give his contact info — only his name — on his ticket, and if his ticket was drawn, he wanted his share to go toward the farm," Kristen told County Fare.

The man returned 20 minutes later with loose change he had been saving, about $30, and handed it to the couple.

The next Saturday, June 30, and last day for the raffle, Kristen reached into the container of hundreds of tickets and the winner was — the good Samaritan.

"I, like, cried when I pulled the ticket out," Kristen said. "We still don't believe it."

Chris and Kristen get to keep the $500 pot, and the ticket is proudly displayed on their kitchen refrigerator.

"He's an example of a community that doesn't always have a lot to give. We appreciate him and everyone else that has helped us," Kristen said.

Compelled to personally thank the man with a farm share, Chris and Kristen would like the man, or people who know him, to contact them.

The fledgling agriculturalists can be reached by email at olsen.farmma@gmail.com or on their Facebook page.

As Chris and Kristen wait for a reply, they will go about their business harvesting and selling blueberries, apples, corn, beekeeping honey and eggs from dozens of chickens.

Historic Farmstead?

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has announced that the Massachusetts Historical Commission approved the Gen. John and Mary Fellows Farmstead in Sheffield for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places at its June 13 meeting. The nomination will be submitted to the National Register of Historic Places at the National Park Service in Washington for final consideration and designation.

"The Massachusetts Historical Commission is dedicated to preserving the Commonwealth's rich historic, architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources," Galvin said. "Inclusion of the Fellows Farmstead in the National Register will help to raise the profile of this historically significant farmhouse in Sheffield."

The Fellows Farmstead was one of nine historic resources around the commonwealth approved for nomination to the National Register by the Massachusetts Historical Commission at this meeting.

The Fellows Farmstead dates to the 1760s and is an early surviving house in the Southern Berkshires. Its first owners, John and Mary Fellows, were prominent local figures.

John served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and was an officer in the Revolutionary War, ending his service as a brigadier general. His wife, Mary, was the daughter of Col. John Ashley, a prominent resident who led the local militia during the French and Indian War and whose house, now owned by the Trustees of Reservations, is the oldest in Sheffield and was listed in the National Register in 1975.

The Fellows Farmstead was purchased by the Ward family in 1814 and has been owned by descendants ever since. It is a well-preserved Georgian house on substantial acreage, much of which is preserved.

Softball Philanthropists

Adams, Cheshire, Savoy Girls Softball made a $513 donation to the Pop Cares Foundation at the league's annual spaghetti supper held June 11 at the Bounti-Fare Restaurant in Adams.

The money was raised during the winter and spring, through the league's "Cocoa for a Cause" campaign, in which the players, ranging in age from 5 to 18, assembled and sold hot cocoa kits with all the fixings in decorative, softball-themed bags.

On hand from Pop Cares were Dolores St. Pierre and Pat Mancuso to not only accept the donation, but also to enjoy the meal. League President Lou Moser indicated that, while providing a softball program, the league also is focused on forming strong, confident and community-minded young ladies who are there to lend a hand to those in need.

Moser noted that with the success of this first philanthropic project, the league will continue to do so annually for various organizations throughout Berkshire County.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.

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