Each year the Leading Ladies choose a woman from the Southington community who goes above and beyond the call of duty to be honored by the organization. This woman takes her role as mentor, community service leader, volunteer, teacher, role model, and change maker very seriously, and often without any expectation of recognition. These humble women deserve the honor of being called a Leading Lady, and we hope you enjoy learning more about each and every one of them!
Diane Karabin is the owner of Karabin Farms in Southington. She and her husband, Michael, began the farm in 1972 as a hobby to instill a sense of responsibility for their children. Soon they had more than 20 head of cattle, ponies and other animals. They moved to their current Southington location in 1984. They needed to find creative new ways to keep their six children busy, and again, farming was the answer. It became the family focus. Today, the farm includes an orchard, four greenhouses, 15 acres of Christmas trees and a country store. Karabin Farms offers fresh fruit, vegetables, local honey, their own maple syrup, jams, pickles, soup and dip mixes, exclusive products not found in big box stores and gourmet treats. All of their beef, pork, chicken and turkey is grown humanely at the farm and is antibiotic and hormone-free. Their herd is comprised of Red and Black Angus, Scotch Highland and Gelbveigh cattle. Her bull, Karabin Farm’s Tuffy, was named Grand Champion Highland Bull of the USA at the National Western Livestock Show in Denver in 2007. Diane scours New England for products made by local farmers not normally available in grocery stores. She has a passion and appreciation for all things local, organic and natural and brings that to the country store. Diane has served on the CT Farm Bureau as a board member. She was elected to the USDA Farm Service Agency and held that position for nine years. She was appointed to the USDA-FSA State Board of Directors for four years. She served on the CT Greenhouse Growers Association as president and vice president for 20 years. Diane is the recipient of the William Milikowski Award for service to the greenhouse industry. She has employed and mentored more than 200 students from Southington and surrounding towns. She is the proud grandparent of 10, many of whom help at the farm!
2023 Guest Speaker
Melissa Sheffy is directly involved in three related businesses. For over 25 years she has presided as President of Network Interiors, Inc. a commercial interior specialty subcontractor. Melissa is the President of Network Design and Construction, Inc. a commercial general contractor and she and her husband Attorney Tony Sheffy are co-owners of Network Framing Solutions, LLC a manufacturer of prefabricated metal wall panels.
She and Network Interiors have received three Excellence in Construction Awards from the CT Associated Builders and Contractors as well as numerous S.T.E.P. Safety Awards over the past sixteen years. In addition, Network Interiors received the Specialty Contractor of the Year Award from the CT ABC in 2019. Melissa has been honored to receive the 2009 SHS Order of the Blue Knight, the 2013 Southington Leading Ladies Award, the United Way of Southington Unsung Hero Award in 2016, the 2019 Professional Women in Construction Woman of Achievement Award and the most recently in 2021 she was selected by the Hartford Business Journal to receive the Women in Business Award. Melissa advocates career opportunities in the trades and is passionate about mentoring young people to seize opportunities in construction through apprenticeship training, professional development, and continuing education classes. She puts her passion into practice through her work with the Southington High School Construction and Manufacturing Advisory Board and through her work with the Construction Education Center where is currently serving as past chairperson. Melissa is also a member of the CCSU Industry Advisory Board. At the state level, appointed by then Governor Jodi Rell, Melissa serves as a Public Member of the Plumbing and Pipework Examining Board for the State of Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. She gives back to her local community as an active volunteer by serving on various local boards and committees. These include the Southington Middle School Building Committee and the Southington Cheshire Community YMCA, where she is a past board president. She is member of Grace United Methodist Church where she serves as a trustee. Melissa attended Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA and where she received a B.S. Degree in Business Administration. She is a long-time resident of Southington with her husband Tony. Together they’ve raised five children who thankfully are all living on their own. Her passion is for her family, community, employees, and the constant drive to push commercial construction into the future is evident in all her actions.