Sonja and Rich Brook have built a legacy on their farm in rural Harvard. People who frequent the Woodstock Farmers Market know the Brooks for their flavored popcorn, fresh vegetables and flowering plants. After many years of hard work, they were thinking of retiring from farming and wondered who would take over the operation since their children went down different paths. But now they’ve found the perfect farmers who appreciate all that the Brooks have accomplished.
Jennifer Kinney of Piscasaw Gardens grows and sells fresh cut flowers at the Woodstock Farmers Market. She and her husband Aaron purchased the Brooks’ farm in May, and cut flowers will continue to play a prominent role in the business. They are also growing 25 acres of fruits and vegetables and 15 acres of Mirai corn, as well as the popcorn production that Rich and Sonja started.
Jennifer pays tribute to her grandmother, Selma Davidson, who helped her begin to grow cut flowers, and to her mother Janet Davidson and her grandmother, Martha Blum, for instilling a love of all growing things. She also tagged along with her dad, Walter Davidson, a dairy farmer and field crop producer. Jennifer says, “My dad taught me that a farmer gets up and out to do the work no matter how wet, cold, windy or hot it is, and no matter how crappy one feels. My family is my first strong stream of farming heritage … We are so thankful for Rich and Sonja and we hope to honor their legacy on the farm.”
Jen’s advice to newer farmers who dream of owning their own place: “Number one is you need experience, but not too much. If you apply for an FSA loan they won’t give you one if you have more than nine years’ experience as a farmer. And number two is, take advantage of the federal loan program because it is a lower interest rate and allows you to spread the payments out over a longer period of time than a conventional loan.”
Piscasaw Gardens is at 9306 Lawrence Road, Harvard. Customers may purchase products at their storefront on the farm or at several farmers markets, including the one in Woodstock. Visit their website at www.piscasaw.com.