In 2010, after returning home from military service, Keelan Brown decided to turn his long-held dream of farming into a reality. Farmer Brown’s Produce is a family affair – Keelan’s wife Rachel is instrumental to the operation and their 4 year old son Wyatt helps too. Plus, a few times a year Keelan’s brother Shane travels over 700 miles to pitch in. With fifteen acres of fruits and veggies, a CSA delivery business, and farmers markets, it’s easy to see why Farmer Brown's can use an extra hand from time to time!
Read on to learn more about the virtues of overalls and what Keelan would be if he weren’t a farmer.
Where is your farm? We are located in Wayland Springs, Tenn (though the post office considers us in Iron City)
What do you grow? Do you have a specialty? We grow pretty much everything. In the winter we have things like salad greens, kale, and carrots in a tiny hoop house. Then during the regular growing season we grow everything from beets and broccoli to watermelon and winter squash as well as culinary and medicinal herbs. We (attempt to) grow pretty much anything else that our customers request. For fun we grow some interesting varieties like purple bell peppers, rainbow carrots, blue potatoes and things like that.
How did you get into farming? What made you want to become a farmer? I have wanted to farm since I was really small. After I returned home from deploying with the military, I decided "let’s do this!"
Who farms with you, if anyone? My wife, Rachel, and our 4 year old son Wyatt (who does what he can). I also get help a few time a year from my brother Shane who travels over 700 miles just to assist me. I'm trying to get him out here full-time!
What are your markets? We deliver directly to our customers' homes or businesses. We also hit the local farmers markets when we can. This upcoming season, we are going to do some on-farm sales as well.
Why did you get involved with CNG? I wanted our customers to know that we are committed to responsible, chemical-free agriculture. Being a part of Certified Naturally Grown has let me add that guarantee without the ridiculous financial costs of the USDA's Certified Organic program.
(When) have you wished you hadn’t become a farmer? Many times. We have been through some hard times as we've figured this farming life out. But, to me, there is nothing like seeing your customers faces when you bring them their food, or reading their comments on a facebook post about how great something tasted.
Talk about the biggest challenge you’ve encountered as a farmer. For me, this biggest challenge has been marketing. We are located in a rural area and rely on word of mouth and facebook. We are looking to change that soon!
How do you include customers in your farming operation? Our farm is open to everyone at anytime. Its great having customers drop by and take a tour of the farm and actually see their food being grown. I think too many people have lost touch with this aspect of eating.
What unexpected customer interactions have been especially rewarding? We did some bartering with some of our customers. We've traded vegetables for a play structure, a lawn mower, and a baby swing. I think that was pretty awesome.
Who is your mentor or hero in the farming world? I'm really into Joel Salatin’s work, like pretty much everyone else! Although I don't use his exact model, I have implemented many of his ideas.
What’s your most useful piece of clothing for working on the farm? Overalls. Lots of pockets, roomy, and it adds to our image of the small family farm.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? My wife's cooking. Especially deserts and bread, I don't look like it, but she keeps me well fed.
What would you be if you weren’t a farmer? If I wasn't a farmer I would be sad, very sad.
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