Browntown Farms has been in the Brown family since 1908, when it was purchased by Herbert's great-great-grandfather. The farm grew tobacco until the early ‘90s, when the family stopped farming due to the decline of tobacco. When Herbert's dad "retired," he decided to dedicate himself to bringing the farm back to life—no leisurely retirement, for sure, but one driven by the desire to see the family farm thrive. Herbert shared his father's vision and went off to college to study agricultural business in 2006, the same year that his dad started rehabbing the farm.
Their first crops were vegetables, but with access only to small, local markets in an area where many people had their own gardens, they had a hard time finding sufficient demand for their products and knew they needed to branch into something else. They decided to try strawberries in 2013, and that was the thing.
With momentum behind them from the sales of strawberries, the farm started growing other fruit, producing small-batch artisan jams, and adding new infrastructure (like hoop houses to be able to extend the growing season). Today, Browntown Farms grows on four acres of the family land, with a vision of continuing to expand and add on to their operation. The farm uses low-spray methods, meaning that they use the minimally effective dose of chemicals only when needed, and their primary fertilizer source is mushroom compost, which they source from Maryland.
With access to larger, urban markets through buyers like 4P, they have also ramped up their sales of vegetables, especially grape tomatoes and cooking greens. After years of investing funds and countless hours of hard work into bringing the family farm back, though, Herbert's favorite thing to grow is fruit. As he humbly put it, "I think my lane in this farming thing is going to be fruit." The opportunities that excite him these days are expanding the scale and variety of their fruit crops and their agritourism activities, with things like an on-farm market or on-farm weddings. His hope is that his hard work and that of his father and the generations that came before them will be worth it, and the farm will flourish for generations to come.
(Written January 2021. Featured photo, veggie photo, and strawberry photo courtesy of Browntown Farms.)