Donny and Joe Dzen always wanted to farm – it is in their blood. Grandfather Steven Dzen, an immigrant from Poland, brought the family tradition to Connecticut, where they planted potatoes and tobacco and started a dairy herd, in the 1930’s. By the time Don senior, the next generation, joined the farm full time, the family decided to give berries a try. Diversification became the name of the game: first strawberries, then blueberries, Christmas trees, and eventually pumpkins all joined the roster.
Donny and Joe, the third generation of Dzen farmers, both studied agriculture at school with every intent to continue the family business. Once both brothers were back on the farm, the innovations continued. Noting a strong interest in local produce and farms as a destination for families, the Dzen brothers opened two stores that feature local produce and sweet treats like ice cream – a perfect compliment to their pick your own berry patches.
Top notch farming practices are the primary focus for the brothers, however. “We try to grow the best quality product, which means cutting back significantly on pesticides,” says Donny. The Dzen brothers grow using Integrated Pest Management which reduces pesticide use through a wide array of intensive farming techniques. A good example of the way the Dzen brothers keep their crops healthy is their strawberries. Before the berries are planted, the fields are planted with a cover crop that increases the nutrients of the soil. After strawberry season is over, they plant pumpkins, which helps clean out the soil and keep pests to a minimum. “Essentially, there are good bugs to fight the bad bugs.” This is a big change from the way berries are traditionally grown. “I remember when we were kids, they used to spray the fields for mites four to five times a year. We haven’t had to do that in seven years,” says Donny proudly.
Donny Dzen sees a role for Red Tomato in his quest for the best possible berries. “Red Tomato really helps us be better growers. We have a great, quality oriented relationship. When I talk to Michael [Rozyne], I know that he’s not just some guy calling to give me a hard time – he’s looking for the same thing as me: quality.”
Read more about IPM on Dzen Brothers Farm in IPM Insights Winter, 2010.