Last man standing: Kamburoff farm succumbs to sprawl

KENT, Ohio – The last remaining working farm in the city limits of Kent, Ohio, has been sold to a housing developer. Soon, approximately 105 buildings will sprout on what was once the largest piece of undeveloped ground in Kent.

Dan and Julia Kamburoff have sold their 62.5 acres, which includes their farm market, to Robert Heimann of Forest Lakes Development.

“(Heimann) put up many of the developments around here, and we’ve gotten to be pretty good friends,” said Dan Kamburoff. “He came in to buy a bag of grass seed, and I’m not sure if I asked him if he was ready to buy this place or if he asked me if I was ready to sell, but a deal was made.”

In the beginning.

The Kamburoffs have been farming in Kent for 58 years. Ned and Margaret Kamburoff moved to the farm from the Cleveland area in 1943 when they learned they were expecting Dan. Ned wanted to raise his child in the “country.” The city’s population then was approximately 8,581 compared to 28,835 in 2000.

“I remember this road used to be nothing but fields with about four houses in between,” said Kamburoff. “With houses being built all around here, it made it tough to maintain farming.”

In 1955, the Kamburoffs planted sweet corn and sold it by the side of the road, and from there the business grew from selling sweet corn to selling pumpkins, Christmas trees and other produce and lawn and garden supplies.

“This has been a great business, but it’s always tough with this size of a business to get lots of help,” said Kamburoff. “We’ve relied heavily on retired people and they’ve been great, but they have their limits.”

He says their daughters, Susan and Mary, had little interest in staying in the business and have both married and moved away.

Kamburoff said that in addition to the lack of available help, he has endured deer and blackbird damage, which cost him roughly $25,000 a year in damages and methods of damage control are not always neighbor friendly.

Urban sprawl.

Kamburoff said while most of his urban neighbors like living next to the farm, there were a few who complained about his operation.

“One guy went to city council to complain about my propane cannons, but so many of the neighbors turned out in full force to support me, he didn’t have much of a case,” said Kamburoff. “This being declared an ag district and because I was here first helped too.”

That incident drove Kamburoff to run for and win a spot on the city council.

Another blow to their business at their farm market was a three-year road construction project on their street. For much of that time, customers could only get to the store one way.

“We lost a lot of our momentum. We never really got that speed back up again,” said Kamburoff. “It’s the classic scenario of urban sprawl.”

Tax hikes.

Rising taxes are also a factor in the decision to leave Kent. Kamburoff says his taxes were $3,800 until a year ago when they jumped to $10,000 even with the benefits of CAUV. He says they would have gone up another $3,000 this month.

The Kamburoffs must vacate the property by March 31. They are still looking for a new home and would like to find a small farm to raise about five acres of sweet corn. He also says he and Julia plan to get off-farm jobs.

“We hope to find between 15-20 acres,” said Kamburoff. “A lot of the farmers I have talked to don’t want another ‘city’ guy moving out into the country, but I am a farmer. I was in the country and the city came out to me.”

Liquidation.

Kiko Auctioneers will run a business liquidation auction Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. at Kamburoff’s Farm Market, Fairchild Avenue. Auction goers will find everything from tractors, tools, greenhouses, nursery accessories, birdseed and other store items.

Kamburoff says his family, including his 87-year-old mother, will be glad to have a “normal” schedule and enjoy their semi-retirement.

“We’re looking forward to sharing the heartaches about leaving, but then getting a chance to start fresh,” said Kamburoff. “My mother will be glad that we can eat dinner at 5 p.m. instead of doing chores and not getting to eat dinner until 7:30 p.m. Ah, the joys of farming.”

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