This past April (2022), we took a trip out to Beach Station Farm and Nursery to visit Richard Gropper, our very own previous Produce Manager turned farmer!
Tucked in the back of the property, Beach Station Farm has a quaint greenhouse nursery filled with hundreds of seedlings from heirloom tomatoes to a young banana tree. Focusing on certified organic, or locally sourced organic, Gropper creates his own seeding and planting soil mixes, and inoculates them with indigenous microorganisms from the property, making a true living soil.
Interview with Richard
When did you start Beach Station Farm and why?
“The start of Beach Station Farm and Nursery came about as soon as we bought this property in 2017. We were looking for a property Zoned Agricultural and that had never been commercially farmed. The front part of the property had a railroad on it through the late 1800s and the house was the Parsonage house for the Mt. Gilead Church from around the mid 1800s until 1958. As soon as we moved in and got some major things done I started making beds and planting fruit trees etc. I put the greenhouse up Spring of 2019 and we've been scaling up and doing plant starts since then.
It's important for me to be able to provide the plants and knowledge people need to grow their own food in my community. Between supply chain issues, increasing fertilizer costs for industrial farms, climate change, and general world on fire stuff I think it's more important than it has been in a long time to localize food stocks as much as possible if only to mitigate inconvenience of out of stock products. Also I like growing and this is a way I can provide for my family while doing something I'm proud of as part of a larger group of growers who I overwhelmingly respect and look up to.”
What are your hopes for the farm?
"Personal hopes are that I want to keep growing the farm and expand into more perennial edibles so there's a true local source for these items. With growth comes reach so I can get more plants into more peoples hands.
General hopes are that people realize how much work growing is, especially growing to higher sustainable, natural, and organic standards. Farmers have to earn fair compensation, pricing and consumer attitudes should acknowledge and respect that."
How is your farm practicing sustainable agriculture?
"My goal with our sustainable practices is to minimize external inputs, and to ensure any nutrients taken off the land are restored. To this end I work with some local landscapers and arborists to get wood chips, lawn clippings, and leaf mulch in the fall. These are going to form the bulk, if not all, of our soil mixes in the near future. I utilize plantings of native flowering plants like yarrow, coreopsis, monarda, etc to attract native pollinators and insects. I'm removing all the invasive landscape plants and replacing them with non-invasive perennials and fruits. We’re planting nitrogen fixing plants like locust, clover, and legumes to help amend the soil naturally. There's a lot of moving pieces involved and they are all interconnected so it's a lot of trial and error figuring out what works where and figuring out WHY it did work."