Rose's Berry Farm: History and Overview

Rose’s Berry Farm, LLC (RBF) in South Glastonbury, Connecticut has been a vendor at farmers markets for over 10 years and a “cornerstone” farm at markets such as CitySeed’s in New Haven, CT since 2004. We attend over 14 Farmers’ Markets statewide every week with 1-3 employees prepping for and attending each market. Customer feedback helps awareness of local food trends. We try to offer unique and ethnic food selections that are popular in urban locations. Farmers’ Markets are a major part of our income, representing as much as 25-30% of our sales. They provide a critical outlet for our fresh produce, giving us full value for our product and enabling quick turnover. Markets also increase our exposure to more customers, both retail and wholesale.

Our fruit is also sold through wholesale partners like Freshpoint, Whole Foods Markets, Highland Park Markets and BIGY giving us a broad, focused distribution network. We also supply berry and vinegar products to local chefs and restaurants to participate in the “Farm to Table” trends.

Our reputation and quality is very important and we follow GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) and IPM measures to produce the safest, freshest, and tastiest products for our customers. RBF works closely with the USDA and UCONN agriculture researchers to keep up with the latest developments in crop production.

Farm Overview

Since our beginnings as a small 20 acre fruit farm in 1908, to a 100 acre “family destination farm” today, RBF has continued to evolve with the times and Farmers’ Markets have played a large role.

Through the hard work and guidance of the late Henry Rose (3rd generation) and the marketing savvy of his wife Sandi Rose, the farm promotes “Keeping Connecticut Green and Growing” year-round with a variety of locally grown products. These include Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Currents, Pears, Apples, Pumpkins and Christmas Trees, grown in the Tuscan-like countryside of the central Connecticut town of South Glastonbury. Rose’s Berry Farm is the largest blueberry farm in Southern New England, and was one of the first PYO farms starting in the late 1960s.

At our Wickham Hill (Hebron Avenue) Farm Stand in Glastonbury, we grow the majority of our vegetables (20 acres) and some strawberries. Locals anxiously await our opening every May on one of the main thoroughfares in town.

The Rose’s “family” extends beyond Sandi, to Farm Manager Michael Draghi, our summer student help, creative genius Debbie Cofiell and her “Jam Ladies”, the Breakfast Wait staff, and our Mexican seasonal farm hands.

Owner Sandi Rose hosts popular Monday Night dinners for employees, friends and family at the farm and conversation runs from local politics, farming issues or sports, and laughter abounds. These friends help “spread the love” for Rose's Berry Farm to their acquaintances and the local area. Sandi has become a “go-to” expert on fruit farming for the local media outlets. Sandi gets contacted by the state Media when weather threatens to affect the fruit and vegetable crops in Connecticut or when they need some scenic video footage.

Farm Fun, Education and Shared Responsibility

As our popularity has grown over the past 30 yrs, Rose’s has added activities such as Fall Hay Rides, Halloween scarecrows and décor, a fun playground, School Tours, Pick-Your-Own fruit and our famous Sunday “Breakfast with a View” restaurant.

We have thousands of visitors to the farm over the course of a year. We strive to educate school children and Yale college students who come here on tours. We discuss Buying Local, and how Food Freshness makes a difference in the quality of the foods we eat. We work with the local Audubon Society and 2 Hopewell Bistro to host a fall fund-raising dinner. Rose’s uses humane methods to deter bird populations that threaten our crop by using a Falconer. As good “farm citizens”, we try to promote the beauty of the farmland in our large riverside town in Connecticut. We try to provide a showcase for sustainability and the protection of farmland to show how this benefits the community and region.

Our “farm outreach” moves from Hartford to Hamden, New Haven to New Milford, Windsor to Westport, as we travel far and wide around Connecticut to deliver our products to customers and Farmers’ Markets. Managers Elpidio, Winny, Gonzalo and their staff work hard to make sure our produce is fresh and presentable.

How our Success goes beyond Local

The real human “back-story”, is the loyalty between Sandi and Rose’s Berry Farm and our close-knit group of Mexican workers from the State of Guanajuato in Central Mexico. About 15 workers live on the farm from April to November and perform the lion’s share of the physical labor required to run such a large farm operation. The men also work the Farmers’ Markets, do the bulk of our planting and pruning, cook for our Breakfast with a View (Sundays June-October), drive hayride tractors and bake some of our homemade fruit pies and baked goods. They also manage our Farm Stand operation.

Several of the men have been working at RBF for over 15 years. As with many seasonal laborers, they leave behind their families for a chance to make a better living than they could at home. These loyal men were a great comfort to Sandi when she lost husband Henry Rose to cancer in 2008. Sandi had dependable employees who could run the Farm Stand, Markets and much of the field operations without a lot of guidance. Along with local friend and farmer Michael Draghi (Littel Acres Farm), who signed on as Farm Manager, RBF was able to continue operations without interruption.

In turn, Rose's Berry Farm has provided the men with consistent employment and support for their families. Sandi and friends often travel to visit the men and their families during the winter. It has been very gratifying to see them marry and raise families, and to help them build a better life in their beautiful mountain city of Tierra Blanca (Municipality in 1536). They are not just employees, but true friends who are woven deeply into the lives of all whom frequent and love Rose’s Berry Farm.

Rose's Berry Farm is more than a local institution and destination. It has become a small brand with worldwide impact from the workers it supports, to the friends we meet at Farmers’ Markets, and the many families who continue to build lifelong memories when visiting us in the summer, fall and winter.

Farmers’ Markets play a key role in helping us continue to serve the public and our own. We proudly
represent our town, and Connecticut farming with quality food and a very human touch.

Essay and Photography by Mark Sanderson, Marketing Manager, RBF

RBF-2012-Farm-histiory Essay.pdfDownload Farm History Essay.pdf