Lisa Brown is the force behind the business. Lisa and her husband, Fred, have five commercial greenhouses next to their house in Dawson Settlement. Lisa works full-time at the business and focuses her energy on the greenhouses. Fred works as an air traffic controller and on the farm. He grew up on a 700-acre potato farm near Glassville, NB, and still enjoys growing potatoes, as well as pumpkins. The pumpkins are sold to the Magnetic Hill Zoo for “Boo at the Zoo” and to Fundy Park for Jack-o-lantern carving.
An amazing number of flowers are started in Farmer Brown’s greenhouses. Lisa sells more than 25,000 seedlings each year and supplies the flowers for the gardens in Fundy National Park, the City of Moncton and Magic Mountain. She also sells plants to the Town of Riverview, Canadian Tire in Riverview and three landscaping companies.
The large orders and contracts, however, account for only half the sales – the rest are from people who drive up Osborne Corner Road and buy directly from the greenhouses. Many of these people now buy food as well.
Lisa began a CSA (community supported agriculture) program in 2012. She provides 45 households with weekly boxes of mixed vegetables from late June until mid-October. The Browns also raise meat chickens, laying hens and turkeys, as well as cattle and hogs.
All of the livestock are given unmedicated feed and are pastured outdoors from spring to fall. Demand is so high that all the pork and beef is sold months before it’s ready. For chicken, some customers order ahead while others pick it up at the market in Hopewell Cape.
To meet the growing demand for locally raised meat, the Browns are increasing the size of their herds. They are starting to raise Belted Galloways, a heritage breed. These are sometimes called ‘Oreo cows’ because the head, shoulders and front legs of the cow are black, the middle is white, and the hindquarters are black.
The Browns are also raising four Berkshire pigs, a heritage breed noted for its flavour and ability to thrive outdoors. “They’re happy pigs,” says Lisa. “They’re on pasture and have a watering hole.” They also get to eat all the vegetables that don’t look quite good enough to sell.
Lisa’s decision to grow and sell more food comes from her strong convictions. “We can’t outsource our food,” she states. She believes Albert County should be more self-sufficient in food production. For that to happen, she says, people need to buy locally grown food. This will help farms and other businesses in the area.
Contributing to the community
Lisa contributes to the local economy and community in many ways. Not only does she supply food to many families, but she also provides employment for several workers.
Every year, Lisa hires four to six full-time seasonal staff. Lisa says she has “been fortunate enough to keep the same work force,” and adds, “The staff are very knowledgeable and good workers.” Hanna Hopper has worked with Lisa for thirteen years. Hanna’s daughter, Hillary, has been helping in the greenhouses since she was in grade 7. She is now studying plant science at the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University.
Mindy Liptay finds time to work at Farmer Brown’s while also raising two daughters and helping her husband, Steve, run their own farm.
Jessie, Lisa and Fred's eldest daughter, is completing her Master’s degree but also works at the greenhouse. The Browns have two other children, Siobhan now working in air traffic control and Alex studying engineering.
At Farmer Brown’s, food politics and community development are woven into the workday and the lunch break. Lisa and her staff take turns making lunch for the whole crew. Local ingredients are used, such as meat, eggs and vegetables from Lisa or Mindy’s farms.
“Lunch is a big deal here,” says Lisa. The crew eats lunch together while chatting and laughing. Three of the people at the table are also board members of Foods of the Fundy Valley, and talk often turns to their volunteer work.
Foods of the Fundy Valley
Lisa Brown is the president of Foods of the Fundy Valley. Hillary Hopper and Mindy Liptay are also on the board. In addition, Lisa and Mindy are the driving force behind the Hillsborough School garden projects. Lisa takes care of the seedlings planted by the garden club until the students transplant the seedlings either at the school garden or in their own plots at her farm. Lisa feels it’s important to teach children how to grow, cook and enjoy eating vegetables.
Lisa recalls that Foods of the Fundy Valley began several years ago at a community forum. Participants were asked to identify a key issue in the community that they wanted to work on.
Lisa Brown wrote “Food” on a sign and held it up…and that was the conception of Foods of the Fundy Valley. Now, three years later, Lisa Brown continues to devote countless hours towards creating a vibrant and healthy community. Lisa’s enthusiasm is contagious and stimulates others to volunteer their time as well.
A lot is growing at Farmer Brown’s. Bedding plants, vegetables, livestock are only part of the story. In Albert County, community spirit, new farming initiatives and healthy attitudes towards food are all growing with help from Lisa Brown and her team.
Written by Janet Wallace, www.janetwallace.ca for Fresh from Fundy, the newsletter of Foods of the Fundy Valley.
Farmer Brown’s Greenhouse & Market Garden
Lisa and Fred Brown
371 Osborne Corner Road, Dawson Settlement. 734-1908, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.farmerbrowns.ca, www.facebook.com/FarmerBrownsGreenhouse
From late April to mid-July, the retail outlet is open daily from 9am-7pm, seven days a week.
After mid-July, call ahead.
From mid-May to mid-October, every Saturday morning, Lisa Brown sells plants, produce and eggs at the Museum market in Hopewell Cape.