The Pickwick Place Story
It is hard to know when a spark of inspiration will ignite into something much bigger than anything one could ever imagine. That’s how the Pickwick
Place story starts.
Kent and Laura raised their three boys on Pfeifer Dairy, Laura’s family’s farm, which provided countless life lessons. A discussion about diversification
of Pfeifer Farms in April of 2014 led Zach to say to his brother Ethan, “You should start an orchard.” The statement in itself was rather absurd.
Face it; a 500-cow dairy farm is more than enough work to go around. But sparks of inspiration are not created from logic and need to be protected
until the time is right. Ethan nurtured that dream quietly and steadily. He spent all of his free time researching, and Kent and Laura began
to realize his seriousness. It became clear this boy was going to start planting apple trees because it was something he had to do. Ethan made
out his wish list as his 16th birthday approached, and on it he wrote ½ acre of land.
This is the point where Kent and Laura realized God has a sense of humor. Kent grew up in Sheridan, Indiana where his parents started an apple
orchard in 1969 that grew into a large operation called Stuckey Farm Market. Kent stuck with farming row crops because the orchard was never
his passion, which led them back to farm with Laura’s family in Bucyrus, Ohio instead. So when Kent’s parents, Gene and Rosalyn Stuckey, came
to visit in late October of 2014, they were the perfect people to move Ethan’s dream forward. Gene poured over Ethan’s notes with him and provided
valuable wisdom. The next day on a casual drive, Kent pointed out that some farm land they rent was for sale and the deadline was fast approaching.
Gene and Rosalyn knew right away that this was where the orchard needed to go. At the cross section of St. Rt. 4 and U.S. Rt. 30, it was an
ideal location. Within days they decided purchasing 40 of the 80 acres would be a wise investment. At this point Kent, Ethan, and Laura walked
the land and said a prayer of dedication to God. They saw this project as something much bigger than themselves.
At the same time that the Stuckeys were starting their adventure, Greg and Rose were working on building an enterprise of their own. Greg grew
up on dairy farm not far from Kent and Laura. Like other farm kids, he developed a work ethic second to none. From the time he could walk,
he was a “carpet farmer,” planting and harvesting crops with his brothers on the living room floor. His passion for agriculture led him to
Ohio State to further his education. That’s where he and Rose began dating. Rose didn’t have a farm background, but her experiences in 4-H
and FFA ignited a similar passion for agriculture, which grew as she and Greg dated, and she spent more time on the farm. After college graduation,
the two were married and started a life in Crawford County. Rose spent the first five years of her career teaching high school agriculture.
She realized how little those that didn’t live and breathe farming really understood about where their food came from. She knew there had to
be a way to combine her enthusiasm for agriculture and her teaching experiences to positively bridge a gap between farmers and consumers. Starting
a corn maze and ag education center seemed like the perfect idea to her, and eventually she was able to convince Greg of the same.
Sycamore Run Farms started in 2011. By 2013, Rose was able to step away from the classroom to raise the couple’s twin boys. At that point, Sycamore
Run Farms had evolved from just a corn maze to also include a petting zoo, interactive exhibits, and environmental education activities too:
all designed to connect the public with nature and farming. A restraint to Sycamore Run Farms’ growth was the rural location, which limited
visibility. When Kent and Laura approached the Hartschuhs about moving their operation, the decision was an easy one. Not only would the ideal
location of Pickwick Place help them reach more people, but also they had also known the Stuckeys for years and felt comfortable embarking
on a journey together. As Rose told Greg, "At the end of the day, we will be better people and stronger Christians by working side-by-side
Kent and Laura."
That Christian connection also extended to Chris and Andrea. A few years ago, all three couples (the Stuckeys, Hartschuhs, and Schimpfs) learned
together through a series of Bible studies. (Sidenote, the relationship really started way before that when the Stuckeys and Schimpfs led Greg’s
church youth group!) As those relationships grew, it was obvious that each set could bring unique ideas and experiences to the table in an
environment fostered with strong values. The experience that Chris and Andrea initially brought was unique from anything else. Chris grew up
on a farm near Lykens, Ohio, and Andrea in Bucyrus, Ohio. They both attended the Evangelical Pietist Church as well as Taylor University (along
with Laura Stuckey). Chris majored in History and minored in Psychology and Andrea majored in English/writing flowersbefore getting her MLS
from Kent State University. They married in July of 1995. Andrea worked for 8 years at the Bucyrus Public Library before working at Shelby
HS, and she currently works at Seneca East HS as a Library Media Specialist. She had the pleasure of being a first recipient of the Drew Carey's
"Who Wants to be a Millionaire" winnings he donated for Ohio Libraries, which she used to bring authors to Crawford County.
In 2001, Chris started planting flowers and soon he created Eyestone Flower Farm which he successfully operated through 2012 growing high quality
cut flowers for the Columbus area farm markets. They spent every summer weekend traveling to farmers' markets connecting with consumers in
a very real way. Several florists even said that he had the best flowers (especially his asiatic and oriental lilies) in the Columbus Market,
a note of real pride. This market experience is an invaluable asset to the Pickwick team. Chris is a strong believer in the work of Ohio's
Soil and Water Conservation boards and serves in both local and state capacities. Chris also enjoys the writings of Annie Dillard and has worked
diligently over the past two decades to build perhaps one of the best private collection of her works, while Andrea continues her work to nurture
a love of reading and to connect students with authors in a school setting. They have two free-spirited and delightfully stubborn farm girls,
Jolie and Emilia. In all that Chris and Andrea do, they seek to inform and connect with the consumer and other farmers on the importance of
our agricultural future and practices.
Like Kent and Laura realized early on, this project is so much bigger than any of us. In reality, it was a small spark of inspiration, nurtured
along the way, and the "God things," connections and relationships, that enabled us to get Pickwick Place moving forward. Where it will lead
in the future, we can only imagine. Follow our journey and nurture your own spark of inspiration.