Lawyer turned farmer grows citrus, raises chickens
The Sixth in a Series on Brevard County Agriculture
Andrew Graham and his wife Ludmilla stand in front of their fruit and egg stand at Mullet Hill Farm.
Courtesy of Jeff Thompson
A sign tacked at Andrew Graham’s fruit and egg stand in front of his Mullet Hill Farm advises friends, neighbors and customers that during the pandemic they are to “take what you need and pay what you can.”
During the season, the Scottsmoor farmer routinely sells out most of the citrus his 1,200 trees produce. Throughout the year, the wholesome, fresh eggs from his 50-some chickens are always a big hit. Graham knows folks are hurting financially these days, so he is happy to do his part.
The laid-back Graham of now is the polar opposite of the trial attorney Graham was before his retirement to Mullet Hill Farm in 2007.
“I had led a confrontational life, dealing with hostile lawyers and witnesses and lying clients, and I didn’t realize how stressful it was on your psyche until I retired,” he said.
While commercial citrus growers have left Brevard County, small farmers such as Graham are thriving and diversifying. He has the time and energy to baby his trees and his chickens, and the results, all grown without the use of chemicals, taste delicious.
When Graham purchased the 12½ acres after the freeze of 1988, the property was one of the few that had not sustained much damage to its trees, some of them veterans more than 40 years old. Through the years, he kept adding trees and replacing those that did not thrive. Oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, tangelos and lemons make up the grove.
“I pick an average of two 90-pound boxes of citrus every single day from October to April,” Graham said.
His choice of varieties focused on those resistant to greening, and he fortifies them four times a year with a spray cocktail that includes diatomaceous earth, which is lethal to the belligerent bugs that threaten the grove. The trees seem to appreciate his efforts.
“The trees like the diatomaceous earth and I don’t like to use chemicals,” he said.
When a neighbor became ill, Graham volunteered to take care of his chickens, eventually “adopting” them. Graham’s wife, Ludmilla, designed the hen houses with little spires reminiscent of the architecture in her native Siberia. The birds not only provide eggs and help fertilize the trees, but they also offer the couple the opportunity to engage in the zen of watching them do their chicken thing.
He will never get rich selling oranges and eggs, and tending to groves and flocks is time-consuming, but for Graham it is time well spent and the rewards are way beyond monetary.
“It’s a beautiful, serene place,” he said.