After working thirty years in the fashion industry, Scott Jillson moved back to his hometown to help his parents on the farm. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

SABATTUS — Scott Jillson grew up on his parents’ farm, weeding, seeding, selling vegetables at the family farm stand. After high school, he wanted no more of that — Jillson spent the next three decades in fashion, making linen dresses and custom wedding gowns, running his own clothing shops.

Ten years ago, he came back. At 58, he’s Jillson’s Farm and Sugarhouses’ next generation.

“There’s a living in making clothes, but it’s very labor-intensive business, and a fussy business, and my parents really needed me to come back because they needed help with the farm,” Jillson said.

So he’s traded fussy and labor-intensive for 4 a.m. mornings checking on wood fires in the greenhouses, watering, transplanting, seeding and helping tend to, at the moment, more than 1,000 hanging baskets, thousands of six-packs of flowers and thousands of starter pots on the 90-acre farm.

Soon, farmers markets will be in full swing. He tries to hit four a week in the summer.

“It’s fun to see all your customers — you know what they want and what they like and the flowers that they bought last year,” he said.

Growing up, Jillson’s parents, Ed and Pat, and their four children farmed the same land on Jordan Bridge Road where Jillson’s Farm and Sugarhouse sits today, though at the time it was owned by Winnifred Splaine, a childhood friend of Scott Jillson’s grandmother.

Splaine’s grandmother “was the one who actually built the farm, Mrs. Jordan — that’s why it’s the Jordan Bridge Road,” Jillson said.

In 1825, it had cows, horses and vegetables. At some point in its history, the farm also housed a brick factory.

“We grew up working at the farm whether we wanted to or not,” Jillson said.

In addition to a brisk farm stand business across from the former Webster Rubber Co., the farm sold “lots and lots of wholesale in those days. (Grocery stores) didn’t have produce the way they do now.”

Like today, Jillson’s grew corn, potatoes, cucumbers, scallions, greens, carrots, squash and thousands of pumpkins.

After high school, Scott studied fashion merchandising at Westbrook College (now the University of New England). He got out of farming and off the farm, working as a buyer for Peck’s department store in Lewiston, then moving south.

“I spent 30 years living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and I designed clothes, had stores and did fashion shows, all kind of things with clothes,” Jillson said. “It’s creative, it’s fun, it’s completely away from what the farm was.

“I did a lot of wedding gowns and evening gowns, and even menswear,” he added. “I still love the fashion business and maybe someday can do something with fashion here at the farm.”

Back home, Jillson and his partner of almost 30 years, Larry Jones, a respiratory therapist, live nearby so he can be back and forth all day.

His parents, both turning 80 this month, are still active on the farm.

“I see them staying here until they can’t do it anymore,” Jillson said. “They enjoy it — they’re not the type that are going to retire and move to Florida. They enjoy being hands-on.”

There’s no obvious next generation after Scott, though, “I have some great-nieces and nephews that maybe will do it, we’ll see what happens,” he said.

One way or another, the farm will stay a farm: Last month, Jillson’s Farm and Sugarhouse entered into an agricultural conservation easement held by Maine Farmland Trust, protecting it from future development and keeping it a “forever farm.”

“I’m sure I will do this for another 20 years, I think,” Jillson said. “At least 15.”


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