Back in 1996, there was only a single greenhouse “to grow some flowers and make a little money” for his sister, who had recently retired from Electric Boat. Now, Highland Farm, run by Jack Sumner and his sister Martha, is a 30-acre complex with seven greenhouses — and that’s only part of the business.
Highland Farm is now a family-owned landscape supply business and farm stand that focuses on trees and shrubs. Just as important is the quality delivery service that is so critical to its Block Island customers.
“We have a friendly staff, and they know when someone from Block Island calls, we’re on it,” Jack Sumner said. “The island has always been good to us, and the people there are important to our business. We guarantee quality products at good prices, with excellent service.”
He emphasizes that when an island resident calls for a tree or shrub, they can count on getting a quality product delivered free to the ferry dock. “We pick the best of the best.”
Mulch is one product that Highland works hard to provide “the best products we can find.” Sourcing the material is critical, Sumner said, and they get all of their material from New Hampshire, where they can get real bark mulch, not the “ground up tree brush” that’s dyed to make it presentable.
“We ship nice mulch in big bags,” said Sumner, “the white bags you see all over the island.”
Highland leaves it to the local landscapers to do the work, noting that there are plenty of quality companies on the island. Highland just supplies them with quality products to work with.
Highland isn’t just plants and outdoor items. The farm stand has a full selection of baked goods and specialty foods, with a large selection of pies, both sweet and savory, that’s gotten bigger over the years as they provide “what the public wants.” Try the chicken potpie for dinner, and a slice (or two!) of coconut custard or chocolate cream. They even have mince pie for the holidays.
The growth of the garden center “was the highlight of my mother’s life, to see the family working together and succeeding,” Sumner said. With 15 full-time employees, and a products range that has expanded to garden statuary and pottery, arbors and furniture, as well as a complete selection of annuals, perennials, grasses, hanging baskets, shrubs/trees, roses — even Japanese maple — she likely would be amazed at what her children have grown.
Highland Farm location and times:
4235 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield
Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Sunday through December