September 25, 2011 in Business

Beckman, family farm evolve alongside Green Bluff community

Correspondent
 
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Lisa Beckman and her dog Diesel take a break on the front bumper of an old truck at Legacy Farm in Green Bluff.
(Full-size photo)

Five facts

Green Bluff, 15 miles north of Spokane, is home to 761 residents and 30 farms within 12 square miles.

Once a popular hunting ground for Native Americans, the land was settled by non-native farmers in the late 1880s.

Attractions today include you-pick fruits and vegetables, a winery, bed-and-breakfast, antiques, an alpaca ranch, landscape nursery and you-cut Christmas trees.

Apple Festival continues through October and features fresh Jonagolds, Granny Smiths and Fujis, plus live music, corn mazes and petting zoos.

On the Web: www.greenbluffgrowers.com

Lifelong Green Bluff resident Lisa Beckman and her husband, Mike, farm land originally homesteaded in 1904. Her grandparents bought the property 50 years ago, named it Fruit Crest Orchard and raised a variety of crops.

Two decades later, the fruit trees were removed and the farm became the home of the popular 4-mile Cherry Pickers’ Trot each July. Upon her grandparents’ deaths, Lisa Beckman and her husband renamed the property Legacy Farm and now raise Christmas trees. As the annual Green Bluff Apple Festival gets under way, we asked Lisa to reflect on how the community’s culture has evolved.

S-R: What are your earliest memories of growing up on Green Bluff?

Beckman: Every year at Christmastime, a neighbor would load one of his wagons with hay bales, hook it up to his tractor, and we’d go around the bluff, freezing cold, singing Christmas carols. Another memory: No matter where you were on the bluff, if a car went by, you could wave and they’d honk, and you’d know everyone in the car.

S-R: How does that compare with bluff life today?

Beckman: Green Bluff still has a sense of community, but it’s a much broader community now. It takes a while for newcomers to become involved enough to be considered bluffers.

S-R: Do you recall when Green Bluff’s culture began to change?

Beckman: It started in the 1980s, when folks no longer were buying hundreds of pounds of apples and vegetables to get them through the winter. Green Bluff gradually became more of a destination for people who wanted to come see the harvest and do fun stuff on weekends.

S-R: How busy is the bluff this time of year?

Beckman: It can be like a Disneyland experience. When I meet someone who’s moving to Green Bluff, I warn them that, especially in October, the weekend traffic can be very, very crazy. We try to do the best we can with the country roads we have. But if you want to get off the bluff those weekends, you have to leave early and not come back until late afternoon.

S-R: So when’s a good time to visit?

Beckman: Weekdays are best, because the farms are open but there’s not that carnival atmosphere. Also the first and last weekends in October. Typically the third weekend in October is when cars are backed up for miles.

S-R: The growers’ association literature promises “an old-fashioned farm experience.” What does that mean?

Beckman: So many people never see how fruit is produced, see farm equipment, farm animals, taste a freshly picked apple or see cider being pressed. That’s what they mean.

S-R: Can residents make a living on Green Bluff?

Beckman: Some can. It just depends on how creative you want to get to bring the public to you. But farming is not a lucrative occupation by any means. You have to love the land and have a sense of stewardship for the bluff. Most people up here have an outside job for their primary income, and farming is their secondary occupation.

S-R: How do you make ends meet?

Beckman: I’m a massage therapist and my husband works full time for the Spokane County sheriff’s department, and we also have full-time jobs working on Legacy Farm.

S-R: What’s your typical schedule?

Beckman: Our day starts at 4:30 or 5 a.m. As it gets closer to Christmas or tree-planting time, we’re out in the trees for a couple of hours, then we get cleaned up and go to work, come back home, put our coveralls back on and jump on the tractor. I also volunteer with the growers’ association and am chairman of the Cherry Pickers’ Trot.

S-R: When do people start showing up for Christmas trees?

Beckman: The Friday after Thanksgiving.

S-R: What would you most like to change about Green Bluff?

Beckman: Oh, that could get political. … I would like to see more farming and fewer houses.

S-R: With the weak housing market, are there many For Sale signs on the bluff?

Beckman: Every fall there are a lot of For Sale signs. It’s usually people who have taken on more than they can handle.

S-R: What advice would you offer someone who imagines running a you-pick farm as an idyllic lifestyle?

Beckman: Get ready for a lot of hard work – long hours, Mother Nature. And even if you give it your best effort, there are no guarantees.

Spokane freelance writer Michael Guilfoil can be reached via email at mguilfoil@comcast.net.


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