Playing dirty: With a 16-acre garden, Grand Valley man passionate about produce
Some people never get tired of playing in the dirt.
Although the chance to get his hands dirty is not the only reason Bob Beasley loves to garden, it’s a main one.
A love of gardening doesn’t make Beasley different from other farmers in the area. What sets him apart, though, is that he’s nearly 70 and already has a full-time job installing flooring.
“The coffeepot is always on,” Beasley said, joking about his active lifestyle.
This summer, between laying new floors at Mesa State College, several public schools and other private jobs, Beasley planted a combined 16-acre garden on several properties along E 1/4 Road. Several of his neighbors contributed land to his garden, and neighbor Joe Bertram, a master gardener, saved most of Beasley’s potato plants from an early May frost.
Beasley will pay his neighbors back with produce, he said.
Beasley planted 15,000 tomato plants, more than 10,000 pepper plants, about 300 pounds of potato seeds, almost 2,000 squash plants and thousands of other seedlings. It took six people three weeks to plant it all.
Beasley has one full-time employee for the garden, but he opts to do most of the work with assistance from family and friends. When his job as a contracted floor installer calls him away from the garden during the day, which it commonly does, Beasley tends to his plants in the early morning and evening hours.
The fruits and vegetables of Beasley’s labor wind up at Bob’s Garden produce stand, 3334 E 1/4 Road, where Bob and his wife Darla, 53, sell the produce their family and friends don’t want. It is the second year they have been part of the commercial aspect of farming by pitching a tent at the end of their driveway. The family even rigged up a TV in the tent.
“If I was retired, it’d be a great way to relax,” Bob Beasley said.
Planting seeds, harvesting and selling produce in Mesa County may have started as a passion and hobby, but Beasley would like to make it his life. He remains intrigued by the chance to retire from flooring, which he has done for 45 years, and instead rise early, drink at least three cups of coffee, put on his Colorado Rockies cap and walk through rows of plants.
“My husband is a farmer at heart,” Darla Beasley said.
Bob Beasley’s love of gardening is rooted in his childhood. He was raised on an Oklahoma dairy farm as one of 11 children. The family always had a garden. They used a windmill to water the area, so his father knew where the water came from.
“My dad was always particular about the food we ate,” Beasley said.
The abundance of produce raised in the garden translated into a bevy of canned goods to provide the large family plenty of meals in the leaner winter months.
Watching his family live off a garden left an imprint on Beasley. When he moved to western Colorado in 1974, he immediately planted a small garden with 700 tomato plants.
He spent the 1980s moving in and out of Colorado before returning for good in 1990. He promptly paired a 7-acre garden with his 10 acres of pear and apple trees and 4,700 peach trees on his C 1/2 Road farm.
In 2001, he and his wife purchased a plot of land in rural Clifton and built a home. However, Beasley waited until 2009 to plant a garden at that home because he had become tired of the whole process.
He changed his mind last year, reverting back to his farming ways and planted 5,000 tomato plants and other vegetables on his land situated yards from an irrigation canal.
“People who settled here must have been doggone smart because this dirt will grow anything you put in it if it gets water,” Beasley said.
The Beasleys also set up Bob’s Garden produce stand, now in its second year and open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Beasley also travels to smaller farmers markets in Meeker and Eagle to sell his produce.
When Bob or Darla needs to be at their other jobs — she’s the full-time assistant manager at the Heirlooms for Hospice resale store — a relative or friend mans the stand.
In fact, this summer the Beasleys’ Clifton home has been a rotating door of visiting relatives, who get dirty in the garden and help with the business.
At the end of August, Darla Beasley’s cousin, Janice Renfro, will come for a six-week visit to can and freeze food. Last year, Renfro and Darla Beasley put up 120 quarts of tomatoes, 80 pints of salsa and “probably 200” bags of other frozen food. Darla Beasley credited her cousin from Texas with doing most of the work.
For the Beasleys, the financial benefits of raising much of their own food and selling the rest on their no-spray farm outweighs the negatives of weeding, watering and watching plants go from seed to feed, at least for now, they said.
Bob Beasley estimated he spent nearly $1,000 on seeds this year for his 16-acre garden.
Using tomatoes as an example, he estimated that he could pull 24 pounds of tomatoes off each of his 15,000 tomato plants in ideal conditions. He sells the fruits — yes, he called the tomato a fruit — for $2 per pound. Using those numbers, he could earn an estimated $720,000 this summer just from his tomato plants.
He also sells peppers, squash, cucumbers, green beans, corn, onions, potatoes, melons and more, at varying prices.
But Beasley won’t reap that estimated financial windfall because each tomato plant won’t yield 24 pounds. Some plants might not yield any tomatoes if they don’t grow correctly. Plus, Beasley gives away and eats some of the produce, must pay his garden employee and purchase seed annually.
On top of the potential financial benefit of owning a commercial garden, the Beasleys also benefit from the smell — Bob Beasley is particularly attached to the smell of tomato patches — and food in the wintertime, when Darla Beasley goes to her pantry and gets a can of garden tomatoes for chili.
For the Beasleys and other farmers in the Grand Valley, producing fruits and vegetables is a year-round job, which is why Bob Beasley is ready to retire from flooring and see if the land can support his family, even if it means he can’t kick his feet up or go on lengthy vacations.
In the fall, Beasley mulches the dead plants into the soil. In the winter, he buys seeds and potting soil to slowly raise the seeds in a greenhouse before hardening them off outside to plant them in the ground in June. Then, Beasley will start his summer gardening all over again.
“He loves to play in the dirt,” Darla Beasley said.