By Erin Dueñas
Nineteen-year-old Rose Andrews has no idea what it means to be bored. Part of the sixth generation of Andrews who work the land at Andrews Family Farm in Wading River, there is work to be done from sunrise till sunset.
Up by 6 a.m., Andrews’ days begin by collecting eggs from the farm’s hens. Throughout the day, she might cut sunflowers to sell at the stand, deliver fresh-picked corn, zucchini or tomatoes to a neighboring farm, help customers or tend to the animals, including goats and rabbits.
“Being bored just doesn’t exist when you farm,” said Andrews. “There’s not much you can do after sundown, but even then you are planning for the next day.”
Working alongside her three older brothers and her parents, the constant work that goes into farm life doesn’t faze the Wading River resident in the least. She currently attends the University of Connecticut, where she studies agriculture and natural resources and agribusiness. Before graduating from Shoreham-Wading River High School in 2015, she said she recalls hearing classmates make weekend plans to hit the mall or the beach. But being in the family business, Andrews knew she would be at the farm instead.
“It’s just always been what my life is — the constant responsibility of the farm,” she said. “Being a farmer, it never stops.”
According to Andrews, she’s never resented the farm life and constant workflow to maintain it, even while others her age might be out at a party or with friends.
“I’ve always been pretty different and I feel fortunate to be brought up this way,” she said. “I never cared what other people do. This place doesn’t make me feel like I’m missing anything. It’s my favorite place in the world.”
Andrews credits her parents with instilling a strong work ethic in her, calling them the hardest working people she ever met.
“They brought us up that family matters and the farm matters,” Andrews said. “It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”
Her mother Denise Andrews concedes that there was little downtime for her kids growing up farmers. “There was no such thing as sleeping in past 7 a.m.,” she said. “The kids never had time for video games or television.”
Her children joined her at work on the farm as soon as they were old enough — a playpen was a common sight at the stand when the kids were still babies, and as young children, they pitched in.
Those early days working the land helped inspire Rose Andrews to begin Farm Days with Rose, a tour offered monthly to children interested in seeing how the farm operates.
“I want kids to see the farm as I did — as the best place in the world,” she said.
But there’s a larger lesson she is trying to spread through the tours. She wants people to know where food comes from and why others should care, especially, she said, because when she talks to children about farming, most don’t know where their food comes from, or even what certain vegetables are.
Andrews added that the kids are fascinated to see that an onion is pulled right from the ground.
“They always love that and it’s something people should know,” she said.
Her mother also tries to educate people any chance she gets about food origins and why buying local is better.
“The food we sell here at the farm traveled 20 feet,” she said. “That should make you feel safe. The stuff from the grocery store could have traveled halfway around the world before you get it. That has such a big environmental impact.”
“Family matters and the farm matters. It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”
— Rose Andrews
According to the Rose Andrews, sustainability is one of the most important issues facing farmers and consumers alike.
“How can we sustain the environment and still feed a massive population around the world?” she asked. She thinks purchasing local food is one way to do that.
She also noted the benefits of keeping dollars in the local economy, as well as the higher nutrient content of preservative-free produce that is fresh picked. Then there’s the flavor.
“There’s a big difference in taste,” Andrews said. “Farm fresh is just better taste-wise.”
Longtime customer Claudia Schappert of Wading River is a big fan of that taste difference. She said the tomatoes she gets from Andrews Farm are her favorite.
“They are so sweet and delicious — I make fresh sauce from them,” she said. “[The Andrews] are just the best people with incredible produce and flowers.”
Schappert also added that she feels like she has watched Rose Andrews grow up over the years.
“I would describe her as a gentle soul,” she said, noting that her granddaughter has been on one of Rose’s farm tours. “She has become so knowledgeable in her profession and her dedication to eating good food.”