Pair cultivates their passion for farming

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Meadow Vista organic farmers Jackie and Rick Brown have decided organic food is a priority in their lives. So much so they are striving to grow a healthy variety of foods and make them locally available from their newly established farm in Meadow Vista. Jackie and Rick Brown have been married for over 33 years and have lived in Meadow Vista for 25. Jackie is the gardening brain behind their efforts and Rick is the visionary force who also handles the heavy work. He likes to drive the tractor, move dirt around and build things. Jackie holds a master’s degree in nutrition, is a registered dietitian, a master gardener, master composter and has just obtained her M.S. degree in environmental horticulture. For over 30 years, Jackie has worked as a dietitian for Head Start, educating children and their families about the importance of healthy food. She also has been gardening since the ’60s. Rick, recently retired, was the longtime photo and yearbook instructor at Colfax High School. The Browns grow vegetables and flowers that are pesticide-free and organic. The couple employs some very creative methods in their endeavors to grow the healthiest food on their one-and-a-half-acre farm on Cole Road in Meadow Vista. Rick recently installed owl houses hoping to attract an owl family to take up residence and keep any mole problems to a minimum. Several bat houses hang in prime spots, their inhabitants helping to gobble up insects. Wood chips, garden waste and chicken manure from their chicken coop are composted for soil amendment. A local beekeeper is setting beehives near, for pollination. The Browns had outgrown their previous half-acre growing grounds and purchased their current property in 2007 and began building their dream. Not being a commercial operation, the property is zoned to allow them to sell their produce and flowers for 30 days a year on-site, and they are open on selected weekends from late March through October. The Browns have also applied to be vendors at Auburn’s Farmers Market as organic growers and plan to sell at the DeWitt market on Wednesdays. On the Brown’s farm, Jackie and Rick grow potatoes, tomatoes and were very successful last year with onions and melons. They also cultivate strawberries, raspberries, squash, pumpkins and a variety of peppers. “We are experimenting with growing just about everything, trying to see what works really good for us,” Jackie said. “We are still looking for that niche, our niche” Rick added. Jackie is also an iris connoisseur and moved a collection of heritage iris bulbs to the growing grounds. The garden also produces cut flowers. Twenty fruit trees have just been planted. The farm is a lot of work, but an endeavor the Browns relish, as they spend many hours on their property growing and just being out with nature. “At this stage of our lives it makes sense to be active,” Rick said. “We call it our encore. You’ve had your career. What are you going to do next?” The Browns are natural hosts as customers visit and purchase produce when their stand is open. “We’ve found many people just want to hang out and talk, sometimes for information, but many times just be part of the scene,” Jackie said. “We’re really interested in connecting people through healthy activities,” Rick said.