by Betty Albert
A FARMER’S STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD
reprint of 2017 Special to the Democrat
The year was 1947. The place is Pasadena, California. The people gathered around the bridge table are regulars. The topic is a regular complaint about the lousy weather, and the city congestion. It was, as L. G. “Frank” Beals put it at the time, “making him sick.” Frank was is one of the gang with a regular itch for country life and ,hopeful for a resolution to his “citified” complaints.
Somehow the talkin’ got round to a piece of property in Placerville that was just not to be left alone. A couple of brothers in Placervile that were related to a woman at the table ended up helping Frank locate the place. Before you knew it, Frank had transported his wife Louise out from a comfortable suburban Southern California environment, with its green lawns, white picket fences, and all the comforts of home into an 85-acre pear ranch complete with no hot water, a wood stove, an outhouse, and chickens running in and out. In addition, the property had been blessed with what seemed a ton of ash from the old Maidu Indian burial ground it once was.
Eight years later, Frank bought a separate property on Green Valley Road with a 10,000-square foot chicken coop. “Dad loved chickens,” Greg Beals says of his dad, Frank. “I was 13 years old at the time, and I remember crying and begging dad not to sell the propery in order to get the chicken farm. But he had to.”
‘It was really my Grandpa Francis who taught me the love of farming and a lot of other things like being respectful and such, most of which I never fully realized until I was much older,” Greg relates. “He and I had so much fun in that barn milking cows, squirting each other so much we’d be covered with milk and laughing till our sides hurt.” Greg went on to emphasize, “If it weren’t for my Grandpa, I might hate farming, pretty much like my dad did. But with Grandpa, it was a whole different story. He loved farming, and he made it fun. It was interesting and educational. I lived in the barn with Mel, dad’s best friend and a farm hand. I learned grafting, how to butcher, crop rotation and so much more. It became my passion as well.”
Further impetus to eventually get his own farm when his dad made him work his way through college. Greg learned to save and scrimp. He earned a college business degree from Sacramento State, the first in his family to do so. Greg worked for the State of California, Cal Trans and Dept. of Food and Agriculture, eventually becoming Assistant Chief of the State’s Fairs and Expositions division.
The pear decline in 1963 did not alter the young man’s dream of farming the rest of his life and having his own orchard. In May of 1973, Greg and Linda Beals bought 53 acres on Highway 49 and planted 750 peach seedlings. Greg had his own orchard, but continued working full time, doing farmers markets on weekends, and even sometimes during the week. Everything seemed a major challenge because the ranch occupied every moment of his early mornings and evenings, hauling pipe and elbow greasing all the other chores of farm life. A butcher shop on the premises kept Linda busy helping to supply the custom meat cuts that were in demand.
He was grafting his own wood stock working on the orchard with his son Mike, enlarging his crop to include the 30 varieties of peaches, 30+ varieties of plums, 10 varieties of pluots, 20 varieties of nectarines and nectaplums, plums, pluots, pomegranates, Meyer lemons, figs, rhubarb and persimmons the farm produces today. Although farm work
was his dream and fulfilled much of his life, it did not come without penalties. There was little time to spend with his wife and children, and he and Linda were divorced, forcing him to buy the ranch all over again.
Mike attended local and automotive trade schools, a natural for him since he had been fixing farm equipment most of his life. He met and married Denise in 1986 and they have two children, Brandon, 27, a Civil Engineering graduate of Chico State and Pacific Infrastructure employee, and Brooke, 22, who has one more semester at Chico State and her eye on a career in agricultural administration. Mike purchased Placerville Body and Auto Shop in 1992, and, like his father, attends to farming early mornings and evenings with farmers markets on weekends. Greg retired in 2000 and he and Mike have partnered up sharing work and expenses, and making sure that the farmers markets go on. Greg, Mike, Denise, Brooke, Brandon and additional members of the family help out.
Who picks all this glorious fruit? “Greg and I did it last year,” says Denise, “we had so much fun up in those trees, we just laughed all day. I don’t like to eat figs, but don’t get me wrong, I love picking. This year it’s Brooke’s turn.” It is truly a family affair, with 10 of the 53 acres devoted to orchard production. “We pick all week for the weekend,” Mike relates. “We have 8 farmers markets to attend to: Tuesday in Sacramento and Tahoe, Wednesday in Sacramento and Placerville, Saturday in Rancho Cordova and Placerville, and Sunday in El Dorado Hills and Sacramento.”
Future plans for Greg include retirement on his 59-acre Idaho property with nothing more to do than admire the elk congregating on his front yard on a daily basis. Besides phasing out of the automotive industry, Mike is hoping to not only add new varieties to meet market needs, but extend the growth season opportunities.
So the Beals story wraps up. Yet another one of those interviews where the heir apparent is the passion for farming, passed on from one generation to another, sometimes skipping a parent or two, but getting picked up along the line as though genetic. Look at this happy family, I thought. How fortunate to have inherited this gift so that all of us can receive the bounty of their passion and their fabulous fruits.
Visit more on facebook.com/bealsorchard
Betty Albert is a local writer, author (“Lost in Italy and Loving It!”), and blogger. Her vocations and avocations include corporate marketing at AT&T, Naturopathic Doctor certification, a 20-yr. portrait studio profession, personal chef and local catering to businesses and the farmers market. Follow on www.greenchefpress.wordpress.com … email at firstname.lastname@example.org