Attention grows for Kent farm

Akron Legal News Reporter

Published: September 19, 2011

Thirteen years of work in the corporate environment left Ami Gignac wanting something more. After graduating from the Colorado School of Mines in 1997, Gignac spent 12 years as a project engineer, was promoted into management, and eventually promoted to general manager of a company in the San Francisco Bay area.

“It was a great career, but something was missing,” Gignac said. “I had high blood pressure, I was 70 pounds overweight. I was just unhealthy.”

Looking for ways to reduce stress and start to live a healthier life, Gignac confided in her longtime partner Tim Fox, owner and operator of Laughery Valley Welding and Rigging in Kent, Ohio about her desires to get back to her roots.

“Living in Kent, I would drive by this vacant, run-down property,” said Fox, referring to what is now Gignac and Fox’s 35-acre farm in Ravenna called Breakneck Acres. “I knew I could get it for cheap and have a farm where I could work the land and make it my own.”

Fox obtained the land at 2743 Summit Rd. he had his eye on in 2006 and Gignac joined him in 2010. Shortly thereafter, Fox’s idea of a no-chemical, organic farm was within reach. Gignac brought her business and finance background to the table and proposed organic certification as an option for the farm.

Now operating as a fully Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) certified farm, Breakneck Acres offers fresh, local garlic, many varieties of lettuce, kale, radicchio, spinach, green beans, watermelons, pumpkins, five varieties of dry beans and much more. The farm will soon offer milled whole wheat flour, custom wheat flour blends and cornmeal fashioned with their handmade stone mill from Austria.

“If you grow it, they will come,” said Fox of customers looking to buy fresh and local. Splitting his time between the business and the farm, he hopes to concentrate more on the farm next year in 2012.

Gignac is looking forward to the next step, which she hopes will be a regional food hub where all farms in the area can come together.

“It’s beyond a co-op distribution link. It’s an educational link, a financial link,” said Gignac. Fox and Gignac have backed much of their effort from their personal finances, and while some investors have offered to get involved, Fox and Gignac have yet to take them up on their offer.

“After our initial investments, we expected to lose money for the first three years or so,” said Fox. “This year, we’re finally breaking even. In the next two years, I expect we’ll be turning a decent profit.”

Breakneck Acres operates under the supervision of Gignac and Fox, who spend their days making sure the chickens are fed and the weeds are pulled. The farm also holds volunteer opportunities for those interested in getting involved with small-scale farming.

“We love volunteers,” said Gignac. Two Kent State University students are involved in a partnership with the farm where they share in the profits and the pitfalls..

“It’s a great way for people to learn what it’s really like operating a farm. Sometimes crops go bad because of the weather. Sometimes you just aren’t going to make money right away, and that’s so important to understand,” said Gignac.

CNN recently contacted Breakneck Acres and spent a few days over the summer filming Gignac and Fox’s pursuits for a special to air this year titled “Return to the Homeland,” about people who chose to leave their corporate jobs and the big city for small-scale farming and a slower pace.

“The whole experience was fun,” said Gignac. “The camera man had a blast riding around with us on our tractors.”

They were also filmed at Haymaker Market in downtown Kent, where their produce is also sold every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May through October at the Haymaker Farmer’s Market.

Gignac and Fox said that they love what they do and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

“It’s not for everybody,” Fox said. “You have to make money to survive, and sometimes that takes time. We prepared in advance, and we’re taking the good with the bad.”

“For us, this farm is just the right thing to do,” said Gignac.