Jesse Miller, Centerbrook Farm, New Milford’s Youngest Farmer
From the time he was barely four, Jesse Miller, knew he wanted to be a farmer. That’s when he started working with his grandfather, the late James Hipp, at Centerbrook Farm, Chestnut Land Road (Route 109) in New Milford. The farm has been owned by the Hipp family since 1896.
A graduate of Nonnewaug High School’s vocational agriculture program, Jesse, since 2010 at the age of 18, has taken over the daily operation of the farm on his own, becoming the fifth generation in his family to make agriculture his career.
One of his first charges as a child was a Vietnamese potbelly pig named Oscar, which he purchased at five. “He’s become like a monument around here,” jokes Jesse. On a bolder-strewn 50-acre spread, Jesse now manages livestock, including 35 dairy cows, several steers, pigs and more than 1000 laying hens.
From the time he was barely four, Jesse Miller knew he wanted to be a farmer.
When he was in school, Jesse typically rose at 4 a.m. to milk the cows before catching the school bus. At 14, he took over managing his grandfather’s chicken barn with about 60 laying chickens. He expanded the flock to its current 1000 birds.
Diversifying, he discovered, is the key to small family farm survival. For years, most of Centerbrook Farm’s revenue resulted from the sale of hay, eggs and milk. Jesse also began raising steers and pigs and selling locally processed and packaged beef and pork products.
In 2010, he purchased 50 meat chickens, adding poultry meat to the farm’s pork and beef sales. In addition, through CSA shares (Community Supported Agriculture) and his on-site farmstand, he and wife Brittany, who has a background in horticulture, provide vegetables along with plants and seasonal items.
Centerbrook Farm now sells 50,000 dozen eggs annually, which, along with CSA shares, provides a major portion of the farm’s revenue. He no longer offers milk.
“The farm is a lot to take on, but if I wasn’t doing this, there wouldn’t be a farm. We wouldn’t be able to keep it as my grandfather wanted it to be,” says Jesse. Centerbrook is still very much a family farm. Relatives pitch in to help, particularly during haying season when the farm cuts more than 140 acres throughout the New Milford area.
Despite nonstop workdays, Jessie says he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I enjoy the freedom of being the boss,” he says.
From the day he bought Oscar, his pet pot-bellied pig, Jesse knew he’d be a farmer. And his grandfather was his most important and supportive mentor in making that dream a reality.
“He taught me everything I know,” says Jesse. “Without him,” says Jessie,” I’d never be where I am today.”
Centerbrook Farm’s beef, pork, chicken, vegetables and eggs are sold at the on-site farmstand and through available CSA shares. For more information on weekly availability, follow them on Facebook.