WINSTON, Ore. — Mark Brosi admits that farming is in his blood. It’s definitely in his family.
His great grandfather, George Brosi, began farming in the Winston area in the mid-1880s. He was followed in the profession by his son Marcus (Kelly) Brosi who was succeeded by his son George Brosi. Then it became Mark’s turn.
The first family farm was a mile west of Winston, but since 1906 the four Brosi generations have farmed the same acreage a mile east of Winston. A farmhouse that was built in 1907 still stands and is lived in.
The three older generations have passed on and Mark Brosi, 50, has operated the Brosi Sugar Tree Farms since 1993. He owns 80 acres and leases 60. There are 50 acres of row crops, consisting of melons and “every vegetable possible,” Brosi said. “All the popular items found in a market.”
The farm also has 50 acres of fruit trees and 10 acres of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. There’s also some hay ground.
“I really like the lifestyle,” Brosi said. “I grew up around it, I worked in it as a teenager.”
The younger Brosi worked alongside both his grandfather and his father. His grandfather specialized in growing prunes and cantaloupes. His father continued with prunes and cantaloupes, and added a variety of fruit trees. Mark Brosi added vegetables after taking over the operation.
After high school, however, Brosi ventured away from the farm.
“I definitely wanted to see what else was out there,” he said.
He attended Willamette University for a year before spending two years in the Air Force. He then returned to college and earned an industrial engineering degree at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore.
Brosi wasn’t necessarily planning on returning to the farm, but when his father suffered a heart attack at age 49, the decision was an easy one.
“I knew dad was getting weak and he could only help on a part-time basis,” Brosi said. His father died in 2008.
Brosi developed a produce stand as part of the farm and opened it in 1996. The market is open from late May when strawberries are ready to harvest to late November.
The farm has a strong following of U-pickers who harvest half of the vegetable crops. The rest of that produce is either sold through the stand, to a local grocery store in Roseburg, Ore., to three or four people who re-sell it to customers on the southern Oregon coast or to a Medford, Ore., wholesaler.
Alena Sullivan, Brosi’s step-daughter, has worked at the farm’s market for 19 years and has managed it for the past three summers.
“Sales have increased every year,” she said. “Basically it is farm fresh and that is what people want. If you pick it yourself, it’s about half the price compared to the farm stand, and the farm prices are cheaper than the store.
“Mark is amazing at what he does,” she added. “He doesn’t eat tomatoes and yet he grows the best ones. Everything he grows, he does his best and does an awesome job with it. There’s just a big difference in the taste and the price compared to the store.”
Brosi said that for a few years he saw a decline in bulk sales to people who canned the produce, but in recent years he “has definitely seen an increase in bulk sales for canning.”
“People are really concerned about where their food is coming from,” he said. “Over the years we’ve developed relationships with people and I think we look forward to harvest and seeing those folks again. They’re always concerned about what is happening on the farm. Although we’re really dependent on the weather, especially in the spring, it’s a successful business.”
Brosi Sugar Tree Farms
Farmer: Mark Brosi, fourth generation of the Brosi family to farm the ground near the South Umpqua River.
Location: Winston, Ore.
What: 50 acres of a wide variety of vegetables; half U-pick. Also berries and fruit trees.
History: George Brosi first began farming in the Winston area in the mid-1880s; three generations have followed in the farming profession.