My Father, Peter Sellew passed away on August 9th, two weeks shy of his 88th birthday. He lived a healthy and full life until the end, dying from complications of bladder cancer.
Peter was the founder of Prides Corner Farms. He left a job in New York City in 1979 to pursue his love of farming, starting Prides as a greenhouse tomato operation. He quickly switched to nursery stock and talked me into helping him in 1980. At that time I had just graduated from the Cornell Ag School and had every intention of pursuing my education further. Thankfully, Peter talked me out of that.
In those early years I remember one of my first jobs was selling decorated Alberta Spruce trees on the streets of New York during the Christmas season. I don’t want to tell you how that turned out. Let’s just say it was the first of many humbling experiences for our new business. We struggled mightily in those early years, making too many mistakes to count. But, we built slowly on those experiences and the hard wisdom my father was famous for dispensing.
One thing I am thankful for is that my Dad insisted that I go to meet and visit all of you. Initially I resisted. In those early years, I thought it was all about the product, just grow it and the customers would come to us. I could not have been more incorrect. Peter taught me it is really all about the customer and that has been my guiding light for all these years.
Peter and I had our share of arguments. He could be tough as nails and would doggedly and vocally defend his point of view. He was a man who abhorred vacations. He could not understand why anyone would want to take a vacation or even deserved to take one. It is a revealing glimpse of the man who was never as happy as when he was focused on a goal and working to make it happen. It was the only fun he needed.
Peter was the ultimate entrepreneur, constantly looking for new opportunities and angles that he was driven to explore. He had a laser beam focus when pursuing a new idea and the persuasive power of an evangelist…even if you didn’t believe when he approached you with an idea you found it hard not to be fired up after he finished with own special powers of persuasion. With this restless, entrepreneurial spirit, Peter moved on from Prides in the 1980’s but was hardly finished. In the ensuing decades he created more than 10 new businesses, many with my brothers and sister. They included composting, waste management, wood working, commercial fishing and garlic production just to name just a few!
He was a unique, wise man in so many ways. I will miss you Dad. Thank you for all that you have done and for the shining legacy you have left for all of us.