Local Hero Profile: Johnson Brook Farms
By Evelyn Foster, CISA Communications Intern
Published in CISA’s July 2019 E-Newsletter – Sign Up Here!
The Johnson brothers were born into a farming family. The trio—Dave, John, and Fred—run Johnson Brook Farms in Southwick and represent the sixth generation of their family to farm. Despite this long agricultural legacy, their parents always encouraged them to pursue their passions, even if it took them off the farm. “If this isn’t something you want to do,” their mother always emphasized, “don’t come back and do it.” Nevertheless, after graduating college the three brothers returned home to the Southwick farmland the family has owned since 1954.
The Johnson brothers work 100 acres of farmland and produce asparagus, strawberries, and their well-known seed tobacco. For many years, Johnson Brook Farms produced shade tobacco for use as cigar wrappings. However, as the demand for shade tobacco dwindled in 2012, the brothers decided to make the transition to growing tobacco for seed. Today, they produce a unique strain of tobacco that converts to lower levels of carcinogens. They are licensed with the state of Connecticut to produce broadleaf strains that are tested by medical professionals.
Johnson Brook Farms’s focus on tobacco is no accident. The brothers’ business is located within a dense farming community, which means there has always been plenty of fresh produce available in the region. With their focus on tobacco, the brothers have found a unique niche that enables them to avoid taking business from their neighbors and stand alone as “the only farm producing a seed of this type.” Maintaining positive relationships with neighboring farms has always been a high priority for the Johnson brothers. They value the opportunity to provide information and advice about their unique tobacco strains to customers. In return, the farmers they work with have spread the word about Johnson Brook Farms through word of mouth, which is how they have built their reputation.
The Johnson brothers all agree that throughout the years farming methods have changed “tremendously.” For example, Johnson Brook Farms used to germinate their seeds in seed beds, which demanded time-consuming watering. Beginning in 1976, the brothers began using greenhouses on the farm, which represented a major shift in plant care. These days, they utilize float trays for their seedlings, which allow seedlings to absorb water and nutrients without the constant monitoring of the old days.
In the off season, the brothers find that there is always something to tinker with. They agreed that the best thing about working with family is being able to divide and conquer the amount of work at hand. All in all, they find it rewarding to pass along a product that they grew to a happy, satisfied customer.
Additionally, they feel lucky to spend so much time in nature. It’s always a great part of the day when they get a glimpse of the birds that fly near the pond on the farm property.
For the future, Johnson Brook Farms is aiming to continue their successful tobacco seed business, maintain their farm stand, and keep the farm financially stable for the next generation to take over. Even when they retire, they feel they will always be involved in the work on the farm. Until that day, you’ll be able to find delicious strawberries and asparagus at the Johnson Brook Farms farm stand in Southwick.