Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles The Suffield Observer will be publishing on Suffield farms.
Before Glen and Josh Vincent purchased Appleberry Farm at Rising Corner 18 years ago, the father and son team had already concluded they wouldn’t continue growing the pick-your-own fruit trees on the property.
It wasn’t that they disliked apples, peaches and pears. “We simply didn’t know anything about growing fruit trees,” notes Josh, who runs the farm. “I tried to keep some of the old peach trees going but that didn’t work.”
Instead, he launched into what he and his father knew best, growing squash, tomatoes and other produce, along with broadleaf tobacco.
The result: lots of success.
Josh grew up farming. First in East Windsor and then on his father’s Sheldon Street farm.
Tobacco is King
“Nothing we grow beats the per acre return we get from tobacco,” says Josh. He contrasts that with the low return on growing corn, but noting, “everyone wants corn, so we have to grow it.”
Several years ago, he and his father purchased more tobacco-growing land from Billy Kogut, farther east on Barry Street. The property and sheds now extend to North Grand Street.
Today, they farm 130 acres of tobacco, which makes them a midsize Suffield grower, according to Josh.
Process Starts in Early Spring
He says growing tobacco starts in late March or early April in their own greenhouses when he plants seeds. These are broadleaf seeds that will eventually become wrappers, or the outer skin of fine cigars.
By mid-May, he transplants the seedlings to the ground. Then it takes about eight to ten weeks before the plants are ready to harvest.
The plants are hung to dry six to a lath in his tobacco sheds for about six weeks. Then he strips the leaves, preferably on a damp day. Otherwise, he may have to resort to expensive steaming to prevent the leaves from breaking apart “like corn flakes”. Next, he bundles them in paper for January delivery to his long-time buyer, General Cigar Company in Virginia.
On the remaining 120 acres, Josh grows corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and other produce which he sells to Boston and New Haven grocers and, locally, to Geissler’s and other farmers.
He keeps his produce fresh in a refrigerated portion of a clean, well-organized 9,000-sq ft warehouse that he and his father built in 2012.
He also runs a small produce stand at his Rising Corner location.
Keeps busy year around
While Josh employs about 50 workers during busy harvesting, he typically has about 30 employees. In the winter months, he drops to four.
“During the winter, we’re repairing and maintaining equipment and ordering supplies for the next growing season,” he notes.
Proud of Accomplishments
Josh projects an obvious glow when he talks about his work. He’s not arrogant or boastful, just proud of what he’s achieved with his father’s help. They own greenhouses, almost all the land and sheds they need for growing, an underground irrigation system fed by ponds on their property and a well-built, modern warehouse.
Giving Back to the Community
They also have a generous streak. For years, they’ve donated produce to Suffield icon Eddie Neilson, who ran Eddie’s Country Store, a First Church booth at the annual Christmas in Suffield fundraiser. And although Eddie passed away at 97 in 2020, they’re still donating to those who took over the worthy cause.