Henry’s Farm is a multi-generational small-scale, labor-intensive farming operation using sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices. It is a true family farm. It is not just owned by a family, but is worked by the family – three generations of the family – from Henry’s parents, to his wife and their three children, to assorted brothers and sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews. In addition, we have wonderful farmhands and apprentices.
Henry’s parents, Herman and Marlene Brockman, bought what was to become part of "Henry's Farm" in the 1960s and raised their 6 children there (Henry is the 5th of 6). But even before Henry's Farm was a gleam in the eye, there was a long and deep familial connection to the land.
Herman had grown up on a farm about 100 miles east, and Marlene’s parents and all of her relatives had been peasant farmers in southern Italy for as many generations as anyone can remember. Life was very hard in southern Italy around the turn of the last century, and the family all left for better lives in North and South America. This was one reason Marlene was more than a little worried that her younger son (college educated! multi-lingual!) should decide to come back to the farm to do the sort of back-breaking work that the previous generations had traveled far and wide to escape. But, luckily for all of Henry's customers, the pull of the land was too strong for him to resist.
After many years living in other cultures (Israel, Japan, Nepal, and Japan again), Henry realized that what was important was a simple, honest living that respected the earth and contributed to the health and well-being of others, "be they humans or rabbits, earthworms or soil microbes, oak trees or algae."
By working the land, Henry is able to be in intimate daily contact with the soil and the seasons -- and with his family. "I became a farmer," Henry states, "because it was the only thing that made sense. I feed my family and other families without hurting the environment; I grow delicious and healthy food for people, and my kids know that when it’s hot, you sweat and when it rains, you get wet."
Henry made the decision to make organic farming his life’s work while still in Japan . That’s where he met his wife, Hiroko, where they were married, and where, in 1990, their first child was born.
When they first came back to the U.S. they lived for a year in New York State where they apprenticed with John Gorzynski, who grows organic vegetables for New York City’s flagship Green Market in Union Square.
Henry was uncertain as to where his farming future would be. Then one day, on a trip back to visit the family back in Congerville, Henry had an epiphany. He stuck a shovel into the earth, just as he had been doing in New York, and turned it over. For a long moment, he stared at the incredibly rich, black, loamy earth. That was it. He knew that this was where he had to be; this was the land he would farm.
And that’s what Henry has been doing since 1993, building the soil, planting hundreds of kinds of vegetables, and enriching the lives of every person who eats them.
|Last Updated ( Monday, 16 June 2008 )|