In May 1977, Bill and Debbie Chakarian were newlyweds with the dream of starting a farm. No one in their families had done this before, so they were starting from scratch. Because the price of open farmland was too expensive, they purchased a fifty acre wooded lot in Derry, NH.
Put the Right Plant in the Right Place
Fortunately, a good portion of the trees were hardwood. Bill learned how to chainsaw and they found themselves in the cordwood business. He worked morning till night clearing the property. Debbie kept her full-time job for some outside income, and worked evenings and weekends, along with both of their dads, clearing brush and delivering cordwood. In those early days, the Chakarians plowed snow, sold cordwood, planted flower beds and vegetable gardens and took on small projects such as tree removal, rototilling and clearing brush for customers.
Income from this operation was used to purchase equipment such as tractors, loaders, harrows and backhoes. Three ponds were created to provide irrigation for future crops and a gambrel-roofed barn was constructed in 1978. Debbie left her job to work full time on the farm. They raised their growing family (5 children) in an apartment located on the second floor of the barn. One small, wood-framed greenhouse was built behind the barn. It was used for starting seedlings, to transplant in the fields once spring arrived.
Over the next 15 years, they grew a variety of traditional crops, along with specialty herbs and vegetables. During the growing season, Bill and his crew would harvest vegetables all day. By 1:00 in the morning, he would deliver a truckload of produce to the commission houses in Chelsea, MA. Plowing, selling cordwood, repaired wooden pallets and used produce containers during the winter months supplemented the farming income.
As the years went on, making a living from their wholesale farm operation was becoming increasingly difficult, unpredictable, and no longer profitable. The Chakarians were faced with a tough decision: find another way to make a living off the land or sell out to developers. Bill was already a grower, and Debbie had some customer service experience. Since the late 1970’s they had been commissioned by neighbors and friends via word of mouth to do plantings, rototill gardens, remove trees and remove brush in residential yards. This seemed like a natural step to growing flowers and building upon the existing landscape activities. They decided to sell their farming equipment and slowly transition the property into a retail garden center.
Chakarian Farm Greenhouses has continued to evolve over the years. They take great pride and care in growing a unique selection of annuals, perennials & vegetable plants. During the spring and early summer, a total of ten greenhouses are overflowing with beautiful flowers for their customers to choose from. They sell trees and shrubs, gardening essentials and provide full landscape design and planting services. Customers travel surprising distances to shop at the garden center!
Bill and Debbie operate the farm with the help of their five children. Joshua and Emily work 7 days a week, Rebecca, Sarah, Jonathan and daughter-in-law Ruthie help part time. Some very dedicated employees and many loyal customers continue to play a key role in the success of this family business. And when you visit, be sure to ask about their most prized crop…seven beautiful grandchildren!