If you have ever driven from Sebastopol, CA on the 116 heading west toward River Rd. you have likely passed Kozlowski Farms in Forestville. For more than 50 years the Kozlowski family have been running this agriculturally based local business and hand making food products from jams, vinegars and mustards to fresh apple pies. After I posted a review of Kozlowski Farms Roasted Chipotle Jam Carol Kozlowski-Every, who oversees the majority of local and national sales reached out and invited me to sit with her and learn more.
Arriving at the farm store is like walking into Carmen Kozlowski's home. Carmen, the matriarch of the family, and her husband purchased their first apple farm in 1949 and two years later purchased the adjacent property, which is now the home of the farm, store and production facility. They moved onto the property and became apple farmers making Gravensteins, the local Western Sonoma apple variety, their full time job.
In the early sixties they realized that their prized apple trees were getting too old and knew they needed to find a new cash crop to continue on the farm and support their three children. They decided to plant cherries, but unfortunately they became diseased and so they decided replant apples. Since apples take about seven years to produce a crop they chose to plant red raspberries between the apple trees to ensure income while they waited out the new crop.
Suddenly the family was inundated with raspberries and they were picking close to 700 creates a day in the peak season, going to markets all over California and even heading to the airport where the berries were loaded up and exported out of the country.
Carmen began making jam and selling it from a small farm stand, along with their prized apples, right on the farm. As more people stopped to purchase their harvested and prepared products they began asking for other varieties of jams and jellies. Strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, golden raspberry... soon the farm was producing a variety of fruit along with the apples that were grown at the farm and on a 25 acre property about 10 minutes away that was owned by Carol's grandparents, Florencio and Julia Lorenzo. Her brother Perry Kozlowski now owns and lives on and farms that plot of land.
"At that time things were booming, but we soon realized how small the world was becoming. At one time we were one of the only farms in California to be growing and harvesting raspberries. As they got more popular our competition grew, and not only in the US, but also internationally. Raspberries were all the rage so our move to other berry products was partly based on consumer demand and also based on the need to diversify and grow our product line," Carol explained.
In 1999 as grapes became popular the family diversified again and began planting pinot noir, the grape that Western Sonoma County is known for. They also began producing their own wine, which they now make in small quantities as well as selling their own grapes to a local winery.
As we continued to chat people, or I should say, family members came up to introduce themselves. I met Carol's sister Cindy Kozlowski-Hayworth who manages the office and handles the company’s finances, the youngest of the bunch. Her brother Perry, who works as the head of production and farming operations, was busy but had time for a welcoming hello. I didn’t get a chance to meet nephew Kyle Hayworth, Cindy’s son who works production with Perry. Carol's niece Janae Kozlowski, Perry’s daughter spent time with us discussing their e-commerce site and their move into the world of online sales. Finally I met their mother Carmen, Mammy as all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren refer to her as.
It was a treat to meet the woman behind the farm and the family that still works as a team year after year. She and her husband raised their family on the land and have created a brand that is part of the food and wine history of Sonoma County since 1949.
The original Kozlowski vision has turned into more than 100 products, all of which are produced right on the farm. They have four items that are distributed nationally in Safeway stores as well as, many other national and independent food stores throughout the United States and now sell their products online, www.kozlowskifarms.com. Now with three generations of pitching in the company and the family that works together as a team continues to flourish.