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“A gutsy success story” (The New York Times Book Review) about one tenacious woman’s journey to escape rural poverty and create a billion-dollar farming business—without ever leaving the land she loves
The youngest of her parents’ combined twenty-one children, Sarah Frey grew up on a struggling farm in southern Illinois, often having to grow, catch, or hunt her own dinner alongside her brothers. She spent much of her early childhood dreaming of running away to the big city—or really anywhere with central heating. At fifteen, she moved out of her family home and started her own fresh produce delivery business with nothing more than an old pickup truck.
Two years later, when the family farm faced inevitable foreclosure, Frey gave up on her dreams of escape, took over the farm, and created her own produce company. Refusing to play by traditional rules, at seventeen she began talking her way into suit-filled boardrooms, making deals with the nation’s largest retailers. Her early negotiations became so legendary that Harvard Business School published some of her deals as case studies, which have turned out to be favorites among its students.
Today, her family-operated company, Frey Farms, has become one of America’s largest fresh produce growers and shippers, with farmland spread across seven states. Thanks to the millions of melons and pumpkins she sells annually, Frey has been dubbed “America’s Pumpkin Queen” by the national press.
The Growing Season tells the inspiring story of how a scrappy rural childhood gave Frey the grit and resiliency to take risks that paid off in unexpected ways. Rather than leaving her community, she found adventure and opportunity in one of the most forgotten parts of our country. With fearlessness and creativity, she literally dug her destiny out of the dirt.
About the Author
Sarah Frey has been described by The New York Times as “the Pumpkin Queen of America.” She sells more pumpkins than any other producer in the United States. Her family business, Frey Farms, plants thousands of acres of fruits and vegetables in Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, and West Virginia. With a mission to end food waste in the fresh produce industry, the family makes natural food products and beverages from imperfect or “ugly fruit.” Inspired by her humble beginnings and early life on the farm, she continues to create opportunities for those living and working in rural communities. Frey lives in Southern Illinois and is raising her two sons, William and Luke, on the same family farm where she grew up.
“Riveting . . . Intensely memorable . . . Persistence, candor, and confidence are at the heart of all [Sarah Frey’s] interactions, whether it’s talking her way into a meeting with a reluctant fruit seller or confronting a bank that mistreats her Mexican seasonal workers.”—The Boston Globe
“Through tragedies and setbacks, Frey has remained resolute and devoted to her business and family. Her charisma and chutzpah leap off the page.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The honesty of Frey’s storytelling makes the book both entertaining and enjoyable. Overall, one has to appreciate the tenacity and honesty she demonstrates to overcome the obstacles and achieve remarkable business success.”—Traverse City Business News
“A remarkable story about perseverance and innovation.”—Forbes
“Although The Growing Season . . . is a gutsy success story, it’s never over the top. Frey relates everything in the same matter-of-fact tone, even when she’s describing something that doesn’t reflect well on her. . . . It would have been so easy for Frey to sand off the rough edges, to buff this story into something shiny and sparkly. She refused—and I admire her for that.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Similar to Tara Westover’s Educated, this part memoir, part entrepreneurial story, tells of one woman’s success in business based on relationships of mutual trust with other farmers, accompanied by her sheer hard work. . . . The author also adds some of her thoughts on what it’s like to be a modern farmer, which are sometimes hilarious and often endearing. She has the inimitable quality of appearing not as someone who accomplished so much at such a young age but rather a person readers will enjoy getting to know, chapter by chapter. Frey brings a breath of fresh air to both the personal memoir genre and the business world. Her writing is crisp and her personality winning. A must-read.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Frey’s energetic, inspiring memoir will appeal to small business owners and anyone who likes a bootstrapping success story.”—Publishers Weekly
“With earnest, effective storytelling, Frey demonstrates her character: ‘impatient, driven, restless, and at time obsessive’—and highly successful. A heart-gladdening memoir of a rare triumph over poverty.”—Kirkus Reviews