Historic Beebe Farms makes a comeback
CENTRAL POINT — Three growing seasons since closing out a more than 128-year run of selling watermelons, tomatoes and locally famous peaches from a roadside stand, Beebe Farms is headed for a slightly evolved — but celebrated — comeback.
Surveying the storied orchard of peach trees one afternoon this summer, 28-year-old Octavio Poscidonio admitted both exhaustion and pride at his venture that began three years ago to convert the old farm into a sustainable, organic venture.
The Astoria, New York, native made his way west to work in the cannabis industry. While running into a handful of raw deals and non-paying gigs, Poscidonio found himself a regular customer and eventual farming understudy of Oregon Bee Store owner Mike Curtis.
Comparing battle stories of modern-day farming and the quest for organic produce, Curtis and the younger Poscidonio one day found themselves discussing the rumored closure of the historic Beebe Farms.
The farm is increasingly surrounded by residential areas, which put pressure on use of pesticides. It also faced competition from big-box stores, along with all the other ongoing pressures faced by small farm operations. The long-running farm off Hamrick Road closed barely a decade-and-a-half after the passing of the final Beebe descendant, Ken Beebe, in 2003.
“I was escaping a bad situation in the cannabis industry. I wanted something more relaxed. And even though it’s a lot less money, it’s been more rewarding. Everybody loves fresh produce. Nobody is going to get rich growing food, but it’s honest work,” said Poscidonio.
Previously unfamiliar with Beebe Farms, the 28-year-old said he learned fast of the legacy and long-running affection of locals for Beebe Farms peaches and other produce. Stories abound, he said, and people still turn up to share fond memories.
Beebe Farms came to be when A.W. and Mary Skipton Beebe came to the Rogue Valley in the late-1880s from Nebraska. The family at one point farmed some 80 acres, growing alfalfa, corn, wheat and pears, milking cows and working the land with teams of horses.
As time passed, horses were traded for tractors, crops changed to suit the community’s needs, and the next generation took over. Poscidonio said nostalgia and respect for the institution that has been Beebe Farms is always at the forefront as he writes the latest chapter in the history of the beloved farm.
“There’s a lot of history here, so I wanted to respect that. But the old saying goes, I know better, so I do better,” he said. Poscidonio and Curtis set about, shortly after the old farm stand closed in 2017, to convert operations to organic and come up with a plan.
As if the odds had been stacked against them, a wildfire along the nearby Bear Creek Greenway in 2018 threatened their first growing season, burned the farm’s water pump and destroyed the trees closest to stores of smudge pots with traces of fuel left inside.
“That first fire took out a lot of trees. I think some of it had to do with the pitch pots that had fuel left in them. There was a lot of brush along the creek, tons of blackberries. It all just really did a number on everything back there. We lost a block of trees — apples, pears, peaches,” Poscidonio said.
Forced hand-watering and lack of fruit due to converting to organic made for a daunting first two years. Finally seeing the fruits of their labor in the third growing year since they began, Curtis said it has been heartwarming to see Beebe Farms producing food for the community again and a new generation passionate about the land.
“Nostalgia was a big part of wanting to see it keep going. When the Picollo family announced they were having to close it up, I reached out and asked what we could do. We all hated to see it go,” Curtis said.
“We had known them a long time, so that probably helped. And they were gracious and kind enough to let us use all the equipment and everything and offer an affordable lease to go out there and keep the orchards going.”
Curtis said the newer practices would benefit the land and attract organic shoppers, while the legacy of the farm was another draw for patrons.
“All of us who grew up here have stories about Beebe Farms. When I was a kid, my folks would take us out and we would get paid to help do the picking for old man Beebe,” Curtis said.
“I had been going there pretty much my whole life and I know lot of other people felt the same way too. I guess we just couldn’t let it go,” With his own busy farm and beekeeping operations, Curtis said Poscidonio was a great fit.
“Octavio is a new farmer, so there’s a lot of struggle doing something new and different, but it’s slowly starting to come around again and it was great to finally see all those peaches come on again.”
Wrapping up his third growing season and closing down his pumpkin patch and corn maze this weekend, Poscidonio said he felt good about progress that has been made, and he expressed gratitude for help from long-time Beebe Farms orchard manager Saul Jacuinde and the Picollo family.
Whether it’s nostalgia for Beebe Farms peaches or an appreciation for newly implemented farming methods, he’ll try to retain the best parts of old and new.
“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into or what we’d be able to do here,” he said.
“It’s been an adventure for sure and the community seems really happy to still be able to come here and buy their produce. It’s been quite a blending between old and new, and people definitely love those Beebe Farms
IF YOU GO
This year’s farm Beebe Farms farmstand and fall pumpkin patch will close for the year Saturday, Oct. 31, with a final session from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Patrons who show up in a Halloween costume will be treated to a free run through the corn maze.
Signups will be available for a produce subscription or “CSA boxes” for the coming growing season. Signups prior to Dec. 31 receive a $20 discount.
For more information, see beebesfarmstand.squarespace.com; Facebook.com/beebefarms, or email email@example.com
The farm is located at 600 Beebe Road off Hamrick Road.