Allyn Brown III
Maple Lane Farm
The largest grower of black currants in the country
My father bought this property in the early ’50s. It was
basically a grown-up farm – all but, say, 10 acres was woodland.
What you see now is about 120 acres of productive land that was
all cleared of woods and stumps and planted for different fruit
crops and Christmas trees.
I went through four years of agricultural college and when I
graduated in 1978 from UCONN, it was a pretty easy decision. We
had the land available, so I decided to go into the agricultural
Maple Lane Farm is pretty much a year-round, pick-your-own farm.
We start with pick-your-own strawberries, blueberries,
raspberries, move into apples and pumpkins in the fall and
finish out the year with cut-your-own Christmas trees. But we
are always keeping our eyes open for new and interesting crops.
In the late ’90s, we stumbled onto a new berry crop called the
black currant, which is very popular in Europe but for certain
reasons was restricted in the United States up until the late
’80s. The black currant is very high in antioxidants and
vitamin C. We thought it was a crop that was destined to be
popular here, so we started growing it in large acres and we are
now the largest grower of black currant in the country.
We’re the first to produce a fresh black currant juice and we
are distributing that all throughout the Northeast at this time.
We do have the ability to get the fruit, to produce the fresh,
single-strength juice not from concentrate. This gives us the
ability to produce a unique product.
We supply a lot of retail outlets in Connecticut. A good
percentage of our sales are in Connecticut and supported well by
Connecticut consumers. We are concentrating on the Northeast at
this point, but it could be a nationwide product before too
We are interested in doing more than just the straight black
currant juice. We’d like to do blends – black currant blends
very well with apple and cranberry and things like that. We
have built our own bottling operation so we can do our fresh
juice yearround at our farm.
Things change over the years and we’re kind of evolving a little
away from the pick-your-own business – more into the processing
of the black currant. Right now we farm on this property about
120 acres of fruits and Christmas trees. We also lease
approximately 35 more acres for the black currants on land that
is under the Farmland Preservation. And we are planting every
year more and more acres.
We have purchased a black currant harvester from Finland, which
has the ability to pick anywhere from 300 to 400 acres a year.
We easily could go to that level with acreage at the level of
equipment we have now. There is quite a bit of preserved land
around, and I do get calls from landowners all the time looking
to rent out their land. So we do have a possibility of putting a
nice crop on those those lands that are preserved.
In the mid-80’s or so, we were looking around for other crops to
try to diversify the farm a bit, so we got into the specialty
mushroom crop of oyster mushrooms. We built the facility to grow
the oyster mushrooms as a contract grower. We don’t retail
mushroom so people don’t really even know we grow then. We pick
seven days a week and ship them three days a week to Franklin
Mushroom Farm where they are packaged and sold under the
Franklin label throughout New England and the northeast.
[Since this interview, Franklin Mushroom Farm moved its
operations out of Connecticut and Brown is no longer growing
mushrooms for the company.]
Passing the farm to the next generation is the long-term plan
There are more and more farmers going out and land is being
gobbled up for development. So the only real land available to
me is land that is preserved.
We have not sold any development rights as of this point, but we
do lease a lot of land that is under that program. (Brown is
referring to land protected as farmland by Connecticut’s
Purchase of Development Rights program.) With the pressures of
development in eastern Connecticut, farmland is becoming more
and more scarce, so for the black currant crop, which is a
long-term crop, we have to get into a minimum of a ten-year
I would like to see the farm outlast me. I’m kind of thinking in
that direction right now. We actually have dropped out some
crops, minor crops – peaches some of the small raspberries,
blackberries – just to simplify the operation a bit. And we may
drop more crops as we go.
I have one
daughter, she’s nine years old and does show some interest in
agriculture. So I’m trying to develop a farm that she can take
over, not quite as diversified as we are right now.