How We Started
Karl worked for years in his family's garden center, Chestnut Hill Farm in Stafford, which was started in 1972 by Karl’s parents Bill and Jeanne Milikowski. After the passing of Karl’s parents, Chestnut Hill Farm was closed and the property was sold. Karl worked in horticulture over the next few years while he and his wife, Kim, searched for just the right time and place to open another garden shop of their own. Kim owned and operated a group of retail wireless stores from 1989 through 2016.
The couple started keeping miniature donkeys in 2008. They initially kept only 2 as pets at their former home while they searched for a property where they could have greenhouses and develop a breeding program for the mini donkeys. After looking for years at many properties that were not suitable Karl and Kim drove by a beautiful hay field on perfect country road in Stafford. The only glitch was that it wasn't for sale. Karl, unbeknown to Kim, went to the town hall, found out who owned it and called him. John Greene agreed to meet with them and loved what they wanted to do. He said that if he were younger he would have done exactly the same thing with the land. After 200 years in his family, John agreed to sell the farm land to them which was unbelievable.
The property was purchased in 2008. Over the next year a reproduction cape and barns were built in keeping with the historic character of the homes on Stafford Street. Foster Hill Farm was up and running at last, named for the Foster family who owned and farmed it for 2 centuries.
The first 2 greenhouses were purchased from a local herb grower who was retiring. They were taken down from their previous location in Stafford and erected where they stand now. Additional greenhouses have been added since then.
200 years ago the original Foster farm spanned 200 acres. It was a large tract on the east side of Stafford Street with the old wagon road to Worcester, Rice Road, cutting through the middle of it. The initial parcel of land that was purchased by Karl and Kim included the pond, open fields and covered 50 acres. From 2015 - 2019 several other parcels that were part of the original farm were purchased which pieced together a total of 120 acres of the original farm. There are no plans for development other than restoring certain areas as useable farmland. Preservation of the land is a top priority. A few of the parcels were slated for a 40 home housing development prior to purchasing them. It was a blessing to be able to purchase them and keep them as farm land before the development could be started.
In 2015 the garden shop opened. Karl and Kim now work full time on the farm. Karl heads up the greenhouse production, growing impressive hangers, geraniums, mums and annuals that he and his family were known for in the past. Kim grows over 100 varieties of heirloom tomato plants and specialty and hot pepper plants as well as a large selection of common and hard to find herbs. The shop and farm are open seasonally in the Spring and Fall.
The miniature donkey breeding program has been in place since 2009. Foster Hill Farm has one of the largest breeding programs for miniature donkeys in the Northeast. Roughly 40 donkeys are kept at the farm and each year about 10 foals are born. Visitors are able to walk through the barns and see the donkeys.