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The future of farming: Davis couple turns hobby farm into rapidly growing enterprise

Robby Short
robby.short@ardmoreite.com

What started as a small hobby garden has rapidly grown into something much bigger for Phoenix Farms LLC owners Whitney and Robin Brown.

Robin and Whitney Brown, along with their children Parker, Oliver and Emma enjoy an afternoon summer on their family's  Phoenix Farm.

For years Whitney tried to convince his wife to move from Edmond to a plot of land in Davis that had been in Whitney’s family since 1945. 

“We lived in a small neighborhood in Edmond when I got pregnant with our middle son, so we started looking at maybe buying a bigger house,” Robin said. “We felt like we wanted more property, more space and the cost of living up there and the cost of houses with acreage is astronomical.”

While the affordability of southern Oklahoma wasn’t an easy sell early on, Robin’s only regret now is that they didn’t relocate to Davis sooner.

“It took him (Whitney) probably four years to convince me into even looking at moving down here,” Robin said. “We finally did when we were pregnant with our daughter and I’m still kicking myself for not doing it sooner.”

As an Ardmore native, Whitney knew all too well what southern Oklahoma represented for the future of his family. For Robin — then a first grade teacher — whose hometown was the various military bases she grew up on following her father around the country, southern Oklahoma was the ultimate unknown.

Whitney Brown looks over his family's flock of chickens. The portable coop and fencing allows the Davis farmers to rotate the chickens through different parts of the property helping cut down on insects and other pests while also supplementing the birds' diets.

“The pace of life here is just slower and people tend to focus more, in my opinion, on what really matters,” Robin said. “Family, friends, relationships, building the community and I feel that, now that I'm here, that this was the piece that was missing for me up in the city.”

The move to Davis came at an optimal time for the Brown family. Whitney’s day job in the medical field and Robin’s transition into a support staff position with an online school allowed them to work from home while also focusing on their family and their garden, putting them in a prime position to weather the current pandemic.

“Our first year, we started out with a hobby garden, we were thinking about homesteading,” Robin said. “The second year we sold to friends and family and the third year it was like ‘okay, we can really do this’ and we started selling at the market.”

Whitney Brown feeds the family's flock of chickens, ducks and turkeys.

Four years later, their family farm — inspired by YouTube videos — plays an active role in Ardmore’s farmer’s market and they’ve even begun to branch out into the digital world and may even include their own YouTube channel — eventually.

Another Davis family farm, Better Together, inspired the Browns to branch out onto the World Wide Web. 

“They are wonderful, wonderful people and they have been mentors to us through this whole process,” Robin said. 

Whitney and Robin Brown talk about their family farm in Davis.

Their website, phoenixfarmsok.com, allows consumers to opt in to a tiered monthly subscription for fresh produce delivered directly to their homes. Taking a literal approach to the farm to table food production which is now so highly coveted.

Robin said their produce packages, which were inspired by a similar community-supported agriculture program in Springer. That model delivers a “grab bag” of produce instead of individually selected items, meaning that consumers receive a variety of items, some of which they may not be familiar with.

Phoenix Farms currently includes dozens of rows of produce, several greenhouses and multiple producing chickens with plans to expand all offerings.

“I really liked that because some of the things I would get in my weekly bag were not things I would typically buy at the store,” Robin said. “It caused a creative situation where I had to branch out and look at ‘Okay, how do I cook this? What am I going to use it in and how can I use it throughout the week.’ So it kind of forces you to expand your experience in the kitchen. It’s kind of cool that way, it’s one of the things that drew me into it and a lot of our customers say ‘I never would have bought that at the store, but it was really delicious, when will you have more?’”

Overlooking the garden plots are an army of chickens, several ducks and turkeys and a lone guard goose named Pooper. The chickens provide eggs and meat that can be included with an order, and the Browns hope to eventually expand those offerings to include duck and turkey products like eggs and meat.

Pooper the guard goose stands watch over the Phoenix Farm flock.

Not only do the Browns both work full-time jobs while raising their three children, the couple also helps run the farmer’s market at the Marketplace on Broadway and have recently begun partnering with local restaurants to provide ingredients for a “feature” dish.

“Lindsey Stroud (Scouts) reached out to us and said ‘hey, I want to do a farmer’s market salad feature, what do you have?’” Robin said. “They used our snap peppers, our carrots, our cucumbers and our cherry tomatoes to do the Panzanella salad and it was really well received by the community. It was delicious too, I went in and ordered one. Our hope is to do more things like that.”

Robin and Whitney Brown inspect one of the farms hoophouse greenhouses that was damaged in recent storms.

Despite damage to the farm's “hoophouse” greenhouses from storms that recently passed through the area, southern Oklahoma continues to provide the family and their farm ample room to grow.