AUBURN — With 7,000 flower seedlings growing in its greenhouse, historic Whiting Farm will reopen this spring.

Peter Kowalski, chief executive officer of John F. Murphy Homes, said his organization purchased the 824 Summer St. farm just before Christmas with plans to open as a community farm this year.

“Right now, the first things are going to be flowers,” Kowalski said. “Then we plan to be planting vegetables this spring.”

The Auburn landmark closed in May 2013, after 76 years in operation. Elmer Whiting, known as Farmer Whiting to generations of customers, decided he could no longer keep the farm in operation. His brother and partner, Buster, had died the previous December, and no family members stepped forward to take his place.

He kept part of the 128-acre farm cultivated for friends and neighbors, but the public face and decorative plant sales came to an end.

Kowalski said he hoped to have the farm stand open and selling flowers in time for Mother’s Day.


“We have many things we’d like to do,” he said. “Some of it is to generate a bit of income for us in the future. Some of it is creating a learning experience; some of it is building a partnership with schools in the area. And one overarching piece over time is to develop some jobs for people with severe disabilities.”

The organization plans to start small, but Kowalski said there’s plenty of room for expansion.

“There is a lot of land there and we hope we are really going to be able to make a go of the farm,” he said. “We want to develop a signature product, whether that means tapping the maple trees that are there or raising bees. We are really in an exploration stage now. It’s a gorgeous piece of land.”

John F. Murphy Homes is a nonprofit group that houses, feeds, educates and supports people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The farm would run parallel to that mission. He hopes to be able to provide some jobs for the group’s patients, but the true aim is to become a community farm for Lewiston and Auburn.

“A lot of people were shattered to see Whiting Farm go out of business, including my family,” he said. “We bought our seedlings from him, like everybody else. So much of that feeling is that pride of growing. … You feel great when you plant something and see it come up.”

Kowalski said the sale included the farm but not the farmhouse. Whiting still calls it home, and he looks to be a great resource for Kowalski’s group.

“We left the invitation to him wide open and he has taken it,” Kowalski said. “He’s having a chance to do this without the burden of running the whole farm. He has free reign to do it, and he’s teaching us.”

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