Near the corner of Harrah Road and SE 15th Avenue in Harrah, Oklahoma, sits Edward Joseph Farms. Polish immigrant Walter Brzozowski started the business in 1924, and his son Edward Joseph took over operations until his passing in 2017. Today, nearly every member of the Brzozowski family steps up to help, from planting and harvesting to marketing and working the produce stand.
“It’s a 24-hour deal,” said Jeff Brzozowski, who heads the farm’s operations with his mother Grace and assisted at times by his wife Tracy, children, grandchildren and others like his brother, nephews and cousins. “They help me by either helping me plant, pick or sell. Most of it, they help with distribution.”
Many of the Brzozowski family are Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal members, including Jeff’s wife Tracy and their children Ben, Grace, Ali and Anna Timberlake. The Melott descendants are proud to continue their families’ traditions, both Potawatomi and Polish, and pass them on to future generations.
“It’s special. Especially the younger ones — my grandchildren — to see them excited about (the garden), it’s special,” Jeff said.
Growing up, Jeff’s mother Grace and father Edward put countless hours into their garden every year, and they often gave their harvest away for free to assist their neighbors in need. Jeff fondly looks back at his time helping his parents and the chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“When I first went to school, I could not eat any of the things that they prepared in the cafeteria because it didn’t taste the same as my mom’s,” Jeff reminisced. “Everything was either frozen or canned, and we had chickens, sheep, pheasants, cattle — the beef and chicken, those things, you know, we just didn’t buy them. And I don’t recall eating a green bean out of a can until I got in school.”
For the Brzozowski family, store-bought produce holds no competition to homegrown.
“You can get a sweet potato from the store, put it into water, and it takes forever for it to sprout. But you can take a sweet potato that’s being grown locally and put it in water, and in a week, it’s sprouted,” Jeff explained. Modern agricultural and wholesale storage practices encourage the use of chemicals to lengthen the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Since its humble beginnings almost a century ago, Edward Joseph Farms strives to employ sustainable agriculture techniques. Today, the Brzozowski family continues the cattle ranch and grows crops like berries, cabbage, broccoli, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and more on an acre of tilled ground. The property also boasts a small orchard and blackberry patches.
“I’m trying to narrow it down to the cash crops that I can put in a dense area,” Jeff said. “Then in the springtime, I really have developed the cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli crops.”
Jeff constructed a greenhouse several years ago, which they use to start all their crops from seeds. More recently, the Brzozowski family began utilizing the greenhouse to grow plants to sell to the public.
“What I’ve been trying to do is at least break even on the cost by selling plants to customers, so I would have a zero cost when I stuck it into the ground. And well, it’s kind of developed into a plus deal now,” he said.
Edward Joseph Farms sold more than 1,000 tomato plants this spring alone. They also started offering succulents that they propagate from an heirloom hen and chicks plant originally grown by Jeff’s grandparents.
“Jeff’s mom literally had this pot of succulents for over 50 years that she dug up from her mom’s place,” Tracy said. “This is the first year we’ve actually sold succulents because we just clean it out, and it fills back up. You can neglect them to no end, and they seem to not die.”
Jeff stressed providing healthy, fresh food as the most important part of his work in the garden, which he balances on top of his full-time job in communications.
“And honoring your family. You do a lot of that,” Tracy interjected and smiled.
Edward Joseph Farms sells produce at their produce stand at 1347 S. Harrah Road, Harrah, OK 73045.
For more information, like Edward Joseph Farms on Facebook at cpn.news/ejfarms.