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’s have been running this agriculturally based local business and hand making food products from jams, vinegars and mustards to fresh apple pies. We recently sat with Carol Kozlowski-Every, who oversees some of the local and national and she invited us 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 Tony Kozlowski 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, Carmen and Tony realized that their prized apple trees were getting too old andknew 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 replanted 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. They were being sent 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 taking out the Raspberries and Apples and began planting pinot noir, the grape that the Russian River Valley of Western Sonoma County is known for. At present the Kozlowski Family sells their premium grapes to many well-known boutique and established wineries in both Sonoma and Napa Counties.
As we continued to chat, 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 and Brother Perry Kozlowski, who works as the head of production and farming operations. I also met Carmen or Mammy, which is what all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren call her. 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. Their products are sold national and independent food stores throughout the United States, through their website, www.kozlowskifarms.com and the company continues to flourish.