It all started with a little red wagon and six pumpkins.
Growing up on his family’s farm in Suamico, Wis., Brian Gronski’s family had a large garden and five acres of pick your own raspberries. One year, Gronski’s father provided his sons with a small spot to grow their own vegetables, which resulted in six pumpkins. The boys decided to load their bounty into a little red wagon and haul it down to the end of the driveway. Selling just two of those pumpkins inspired the boys to only grow pumpkins the following year. That resulted in a much larger wagon load of pumpkins and the successful sale of most of them.
With that small start, the Gronski family moved from growing raspberries to growing pumpkins and becoming The Pumpkin Place on Briter’s Farm.
After high school, Gronski attended Milwaukee School of Engineering, earning an electrical engineering degree and was later employed with the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS). In 2006, while working for WPS, Gronski and his wife Teri took over The Pumpkin Place and began looking for additional acreage to expand into an organic vegetable operation that would allow them to farm full time.
As it happens, in 2010 Gronski was caught in downsizing at WPS. Yet things seemed to fall into place as he located a farm that fit into his plan to farm full time. The farm was converted to an organic dairy farm about 15 years earlier and was suitable for expansion into an organic produce farm. Even though Gronski didn’t have the equity to buy the 144-acre farm outright, he found an opportunity to secure the funding through the Farm Service Agency Farm Loan Program.
At USDA, we are committed to investing in beginning farmers by building an agriculture industry diverse and successful enough to attract the smartest, hardest-working people in the nation, like the Gronskis.
In February 2011, Gronski contacted the Oconto County FSA Farm Loan Team. The Gronskis worked with FSA Farm Loan Officer Mary Renik to secure a farm loan for a portion of the cost of the farm with the rest of the loan covered through a land contract with the farm’s owners.
“You don’t close in 30 days like when you buy a house,” said Gronski about his loan, “but without the FSA programs available to us, the farm would not exist today.”
Last year, the Gronskis planted an acre in organic produce and rented the rest of the land to the previous owner. They sold the produce at local farmers markets. This year the goal is to start a community supported agriculture network, or CSA, and grow it to about 300 members to support the farm. They also want to include grass-fed livestock, an on-farm classroom to educate the public about where their food comes from, a corn maze and farm market.
“Brian and Teri were great to work with, very enthusiastic and eager to teach others the importance of healthy eating. I am glad to have had the opportunity to help make their farming business a reality,” said Mary Renik, Oconto County FSA farm loan officer.
The couple feels that the farm provides healthy food to their community and an opportunity to educate people about farming..
“You have to know your farmer and appreciate where your food comes from,” said Gronski. With the eager teens that are willing to work at the farm during the summer, the Gronskis are already educating the next generation about farming and food.