Duyssens keep 'the family' in family farming

Jun 27, 2011

When Deputy John Duyssen isn't on patrol, investigating accidents or otherwise helping to keep fellow Geneseeans safe, he's doing what he loves -- growing things.

And one he hopes sometime soon will become a full-time business.

For the past seven years, along with his wife Jessica, and children Jonah, 14, Colton, 13, and Julian, 9, he runs a fruit farm on Bater Road in Le Roy.

The Duyssen's specialize in strawberries, but have added blackberries and raspberries in recent years.

The farm also now includes 22 beehives and John said the plan is to start selling honey.

Strawberry season is just about over -- if you want to pick your own, there's only a day or two left and what's left is best suited for preserves -- but John, Jessica and the boys have plenty to keep them busy.

The growing life for a strawberry plant is three years. The plants that are two years old this season will get mowed to the ground so they can regenerate, the three-year-old plants will get plowed under and something else will be planted in their place for crop-rotation purposes, and there is the blackberry and raspberry plants and bees to take care of.

The family is also adding hoop houses to protect young strawberry and other fruit plants from the elements.

"It's a growing business," said John, with no sense of "pun intended."

He said two or three weeks ago during the height of the strawberry season, people were flocking to the farm to pick their own strawberries. John took four weeks off from the Sheriff's Office to help with the chores and the customers.

This year, Jonah said the person from the furthest away he met was Florida, but the all-time record was set last year, he said, when a group of nuns from Africa stopped by the farm.

Their first question, "Where are the strawberry trees?"

Jonah had to politely point them to the small green plants close to the ground.

Typically, John, said, he grows three to four thousand strawberries, and could grow more if he had the time.

"I can't grow fruit full time and be a full-time deputy," he said.

He's eligible for retirement in a year in a half, but he isn't sure the farm will generate enough revenue to provide both family income and family health insurance.

But if you see John out on patrol some evening and ask him about strawberries or bees, it's clear, this is what he loves to do.

Farming is in his blood.

His father and brother own a farm just down the road where they grow dry beans, corn, soybeans, hay, wheat and oats. The current Duyssen fruit farm was owned by John's grandparents.

"We have pictures of what the old farm looked like and it's fun to think we're doing what they used to do," John said.