Welcome. We are Bree and Rich Woodbridge. McCollum Orchards is our effort to save a 100-acre family farm nestled below the Niagara Escarpment in Lockport, NY (just north of Buffalo). The farm was established in April 1827 by Rich’s great-great-great-grandfather, Hiram McCollum and his brother Joel, one of Lockport’s founding fathers. It has been passed down through the generations ever since. We moved here in March 2011 with the hopes of breathing new life into the place. Our goal is to reestablish a thriving family farm and share its unique history. To do that, we are becoming farmers, restorers and business owners all at once. Here on this blog we chronicle our adventures as we restart the farm and fix up the family homestead. Thank you for following along!
Farmer Rich grew up in Princeton, New Jersey and spent his childhood summers at McCollum Orchards with his grandmother, Josie. Farmer Bree was raised on a citrus orchard in Phoenix, Arizona. We both have Anthropology degrees, from Kenyon College and Emory University respectively. Rich worked for a stint as an archeologist in Honduras. Bree doubled-majored in Russian and spent a year in Irkutsk, Siberia, where her favorite times were in the summer garden. Jobs coordinating U.S. State Department exchange programs took her from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. There she met Rich, who had moved out west to work in dotcom advertising and consumer product market research.
We were married in 2008 on a historic ranch in Monterey, California, where Bree went to graduate school at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. At the same time, Rich pursued a MBA at UC San Diego. From 2009 to 2010, we worked in Chennai, India, at an economic development research institute. We returned to the U.S. looking for a place to put down roots. Little did we know it would be real roots in Western New York!
Farm in Limbo
In 2009, Grandma Josie passed away, leaving the fate of the farm in limbo. Upon our return from India, we visited Lockport to pay respects. Walking around McCollum Orchards was like stepping back in time. It was overgrown and in need of repair, but underneath that was a gracious well-built farm. At the time, Rich's cousins lived here. They showed us the five flourishing hops bines they planted along the tractor shed and also put into our head the idea of moving here.
On the drive home, we wondered, "What will happen to the farm?" Bree remembered how her dad's citrus grove had been replaced with an outlet shopping mall. Rich admitted that he had often dreamed of fixing up the farm. The idea that we might be able to save this special place took root. It took convincing our parents. Our pros-and-cons list was six pages long. After much consideration, we jumped in with both feet.
The Next Chapter
In a short time, we have come to love farming in this community. The old farm needs constant attention. By winter of our first season, we decided to work full-time on the farm. A huge boost came in March 2012, when we were one of two farms in the state selected for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's Journeyperson Program, which provides two years of educational support and farm mentoring.
We have added three cats (Isis, Gobi, and Miso) and an Australian cattle dog (Ruby) to our crew. In January 2014, we welcomed our first child and the farm's 7th generation - Amelia Wrenn Woodbridge. In June 2017, we will welcome our 2nd daughter. We can't wait until they are big enough to weed the carrots!