Brown’s Berry Patch will close retail operation

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Brown’s Berry Patch has been a popular site along Route 18 in Carlton for about three decades.

WATERPORT – A popular agri-tourism retail site that drew outsiders to Orleans County and also employed about 50 people during the peak of the fall season will close.

Brown’s Berry Patch owners said the site, which started in 1984 as a small fruit stand, is closing. The Brown’s Berry Patch fruit and wholesale businesses will remain in operation.

Bob Brown and his wife Deborah say the business has been profitable, but they are ready to retire. They worked together to make it an agri-tourism destination.

Bob’s brother Eric is the farm’s orchard manager and Bob and Deborah’s son Bobby is in charge of the berry operation, as well as handling other responsibilities for the farm. Eric and Bobby want to continue focusing on growing fruit and working with the wholesale customers – not the retail operation.

“We’ve been blessed with a lot of great customers,” Bob Brown said. “I’m going to miss all of those customers.”

Bob Brown stands next his wife Deborah during the dedication of a Peace Garden on Oct. 5, 2013. Brown’s ancestors helped fight the British during the War of 1812. Paula Savage, the Peace Garden Foundation president, is at right.

The Brown family will continue the 300-acre farm through Orchard Dale Fruit Company. The family has a long lineage in Carlton, dating back to 1804.

Bob Brown pushed to start the retail operation about three decades ago, selling fruit from a roadside stand. He said the farm needed to diversify and not just rely on wholesale buyers.

The farm added its first structure in 1984 for Brown’s Berry Patch. It kept growing in the years that followed, adding a playground that kept expanding. It had a petting zoo with farm animals. The retail side grew to ice cream, gifts, desserts and sandwiches.

Brown’s Berry Patch was popular for wagon rides and birthday parties. “Farmer Brown” – Bob Brown – was the leader of many of those tours, which included many school groups.

Eric Brown looks over a field of strawberries in this photo from May 2013. The Brown family will focus on growing fruit for its wholesale customers.

Gayle Ashbery, the Carlton town supervisor, said she was sad to hear the news this morning about the closing of the retail operation.

“They had a wonderful business that drew a lot of people from a lot of different areas,” Ashbery said.”It was definitely a draw.”

Brown’s attracted many repeat customers from Monroe, Erie, Niagara and Genesee counties. The farm market became a destination. In 2004, it was recognized with an I Love New York Governor’s Agri-Tourism Award.

Brown’s Berry Patch also has been recognized for excellence by the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association, Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, New York Agricultural Society and Genesee Valley Parent Magazine.

Bob Brown said the family strove to run a clean operation that was family friendly, and also gave customers a taste of farm life.

Pedal cars, a Bouncy Pillow, and the Goat Walk (where goats walk on a track on top of a grain bin and barn) have been popular.

The family would consider leasing the space to another retailer.

“We’re open to ideas,” Brown said.