On April 24, the Candor Historical Society invited Skip and Jeanne Jackson to come and talk about their business, Iron Kettle Farms, about to open for its 50th season.
Jeanne Jackson started by telling about her hardworking father who only had an eighth grade education but taught his children the importance of hard work.
Both Skip and Jeanne would graduate from high school and even go on to college. Skip Jackson added, “I struggled hard getting through school; my most used book was the dictionary.” They would meet and end up marrying while in college.
His first job was with a milk company in Indianapolis, IN, and Jeanne his wife was a teacher. Skip Jackson would even pick up used furniture, fix it up and resell in their yard to help make ends meet. After a couple of years, a death in the family would bring Skip and Jeanne back to New York, where they had grown up. “I had a wonderful childhood on the farm and wanted to raise kids on a farm,” Jeanne Jackson said. “We had $1,000, and after searching around we went to the bank and bought Harold and Carol Adams Farm.”
The summer of 1969 they dragged out an old corn crib and set up their first market. In 1970 their first child was born, and despite business being slow, they ate that first year thanks to Skip Jackson’s hunting skills, enjoying deer and rabbit.
The first couple of years, 1970 and 1971, were very slow; they even planted two acres of strawberries. Then in 1972 Hurricane Agnes hit. “We just wanted to survive and enjoy our family.” Jeanne Jackson said. Her husband worked a couple of years at other jobs like for IBM, and Van Scoy, where he actually only received credit for grain. She had another child in 1972.
Skip Jackson’s father had bought them some hogs and wanted them to raise pigs as well.
In the beginning they had 52 acres, and only about 20 of it was tillable. As the farm grew they were able to increase the business and have traffic stopping by more. In 1979 they completed moving their house back.
In the mid 1980s, with the country suffering from the fuel crisis, they decided to grow more and bought a greenhouse. As the years passed the produce they would choose to grow would change, and they would end up tearing down an old barn and moving it from Marshland Road in Apalachin, as well as purchasing the farm from across the road from Iron Kettle. In 1996 they purchased a large greenhouse from Newark Valley and would end up moving it to the Iron Kettle Farm.
A member of the audience asked when the Jacksons started growing pumpkins, and they said from the very beginning. At one point the Nichols Farm (which later became Tioga Gardens) did a pumpkin display that got vandalized, and Mrs. Nichols would end up giving them some of the stuff from her display.
Their three children graduated from high school and went on to college and are involved in the farm today. The money they used to pay their own college expenses came from animals they raised and sold through 4-H. In 1992 they formed a partnership with their grown children.
Jeanne Jackson said, “Our goal has always been to have the best farm and love what we are doing. We also must be ready to make some changes and keep up with the times. We have really enjoyed building the farm.” The Jacksons would attend meetings outside of Tioga County and learn new ideas from other areas. Iron Kettle received the NY State Governor Award and in 1998 the Agri-Tourism Award.
They talked about not only their children but many others in the community that had worked for them on the farm. “We couldn’t have done it without our community,” Jeanne Jackson said.