Tuesday, November 23, 2021

#Book Review: The Growing Season by Sarah Frey, the Pumpkin Queen #Thanksgivingpumpkinpie #memoir #entrepreneur


Memoirs and More

Hello and Welcome to the Focused on Story Blog!

The fourth Wednesday of the month focuses on Memoirs and Life Storytelling. Today I am reviewing a heart-warming memoir, The Growing Season by Sarah Frey. I am adding this book to my favorite memoirs list.

Do you plan to have pumpkin pie on your Thanksgiving table? You can thank Sarah Frey for the popularity of pumpkins! Her story takes the reader deep into the pumpkin and cantaloupe fields and fresh produce markets and draws you into her family and their situation. Hers is a fascinating story of making her dream come true.

The Growing Season by Sarah Frey


REVIEW: The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life--and Saved an American Farm by Sarah Frey

Cantaloupe a.k.a. Muskmelons
Image by PublicDomainImages from Pixabay 

The memoir, The Growing Season, caught my attention when selecting audiobooks in the Libby app. We like to listen during our long 22-hour ride from Michigan to Florida. My hubby, Ted a.k.a. Gardener Ted (GT for short) is rooted deep in gardening. He loves it especially when the weather is perfect and produces fantastic harvests of vegetables and strawberries. I thought this story would be about growing vegetables. It was. But on a level much larger than GT’s garden!

The author, Sarah Frey who is known now as the pumpkin queen, grew up on a farm in Southern Illinois—a mismanaged farm thanks to her father’s addictions to alcohol and gambling served with a side of laziness and meanness. He pushed his kids to do all the labor on the farm so he could play the ponies and party away from home. They had plenty of kids and Sarah was the baby in the family, just like me. She worked alongside her older brothers who always treated her like she was one of the boys. Growing up in such harsh surroundings and working with her brothers shaped her never-give-up attitude and strong work ethic. Growing a business takes determination and passion. Sarah had both.

This feisty girl lived in the country, an isolated area where she spent her hours playing outdoors when she had her farm chores done. Her classmates considered her odd as she didn't associate with them preferring her farm and animals and gardens. Because she was so different from other kids, Sarah's school life was a struggle. She fought her way through school and won thanks to teachers who recognized her brilliance.

Sarah began her “business” delivering cantaloupe in their run-down truck with her mom when she was a kid. They sold the fruit from their farm to local grocery stores. When Sarah was a teen she took over the deliveries when her mother could no longer take on the responsibility. With her energy, brains and drive, she grew that small route into a billion-dollar enterprise.

Pumpkins growing in our garden. Note our grandsons' names carved into the pumpkins.GT did that when the pumpkins were small, and as they grew so did the names and the boys!

But why is Sarah the Pumpkin Queen? She has led the way in the produce industry making pumpkins popular year-round, not just in the fall for Halloween jack-o-lanterns or Thanksgiving day pies. She has also developed pumpkin recipes and a line of prepared food for sale.The pumpkins' bright color, taste and a large number of varieties attracted her. Her heart lifts every time she visits the fields spotted with the striking orange pumpkins growing on her farm. 

I enjoyed listening to Sarah narrate the plain-spoken story in the audiobook. Perhaps that’s why I fell in love with her story. She is not a lyrical writer, but she tells the story authentically to reveal her emotions and feelings. I engaged in her story because we share similar experiences and feelings.

Being a billionaire is in no way part of my life story, but I can identify with her dream of being an entrepreneur. We too dreamed of building a successful business, but ours was a floral and greenhouse business. She grew her products on her family farm, and we grew our plants in greenhouses.

Arranging a Dream: A Memoir
by J.Q. Rose
Follow Janet and Ted's inspiring story as they travel the path of turning dreams into reality.

I grew up with my mom, dad, my two older brothers and my dog, King, in a comfortable home. I could not relate to her childhood of poverty at all, but, like Sarah, I have older brothers I adored and admired. Family was (and is) important to her and to me. She involved her family in her business, and I “worked” in our family business, the funeral business, with my brothers and parents. I guess you could call dusting caskets and setting up flowers work?

As Sarah’s business grew, she asked her brothers to come back to the farm and help her "grow" her dream. We included our kids in our floral business. They still complain about only getting paid twenty-five cents to fill up a large bucket with water tubes. One rose is slipped into a tube of water to keep the flower fresh until it can be placed in a vase of water. The job of filling the tubes (and playing in the water) was perfect to keep little hands busy.

 My daughters were too young to realize how important this job was, but if the girls ever did figure out how they saved time for the designers to create floral arrangements instead of filling tubes, they may have demanded fifty cents a bucket!

Sarah’s memoir and mine are similar in dealing with motherhood and running a business. Balancing family and work is a challenge. A mom's feeling of guilt worrying about the business when at home with the kids, then worrying about the kids when at work is a universal concern and will be as long as there are working mothers.

I purchased the eBook because I enjoyed The Growing Season narrated by Sarah in the audiobook version. I'm anxious to experience reading the book and savoring the story in my own time.

Have you identified with an author who has shared her/his life story with you? Do you have a favorite memoir to recommend to readers? Please leave a comment below. Thank you!

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Arranging a Dream: A Memoir
Click here to download the eBook at your favorite online bookseller.

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Helena Fairfax said...

That sounds like an inspiring read, JQ. I love the nickname the pumpkin queen! I just read a memoir that goes the opposite way - a couple were swindled out of their farm, lost everything and became homeless. In The Salt Path, by Raynow Winn, she and her husband decided to walk the coastal path in the south of England. It's as inspiring in its own way.

J.Q. Rose said...

How intriguing when folks turn their disaster into an inspiring story. Thank you for stopping in.

Marsha said...

Hey, JQ. You never disappoint in your posts. I've shared. :) Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. :)

Computer Tutor said...

That is a great story. Walking that different path requires confidence and commitment. She certainly had it.

I'm just starting to look into reading audio books. What's Libby?

Pat Garcia said...

I too like to listen to audio books. They are delightful. I just finished reading a similar memoir by Gwen Plano titled Letting Go Into Perfect Love.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a safe crossover into 2022.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

cleemckenzie said...

I love a good memoir, and this one that's tied to the agrarian world is particularly appealing. Thanks for posting about it, JQ.

J.Q. Rose said...

I'm a bit mystified that I hadn't noticed all these comments on my page. I'm sure I answered you, Marsha, and thanked you for the share and your kind words. I apologize to you and all who left comments below.

J.Q. Rose said...

Yes, she is definitely a role model for all of us. Libby is the app that allows you to check out books from your library. You have to have a library card to use Libby. Check out your local library website. They'll probably mention it.

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Pat. I'll look up that book you mentioned. Thanks for the heads up on it. You have a Merry Christmas too!

J.Q. Rose said...

You're welcome, Lee. This should be a good read for you!

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