Bessemer Farms, the only working farm in the Akron city limits, has stopped growing vegetables for local tables and on Friday will auction a bevy of tractors, trucks and implements.
The move comes after farmer Don Bessemer in May planted all fields with soybeans instead of the corn, squash, peppers, lettuce and other vegetables that he typically grew.
“We are still farming,” Bessemer said. “We’re the largest produce grower in Summit County, now we’re the largest soybean grower in the county … We’re selling the equipment off that we used for produce.”
Bessemer, 71, is the third generation to oversee the farm, off Copley Road, on Akron’s western edge.
News of Friday’s auction — boasting some 400 items — has generated interest from area folks perhaps feeling a bit sentimental about Bessemer history. There also has been attention from farmers and others from neighboring states, said Brooks E. Ames, a real estate agent and auctioneer with Kiko Auctioneers.
Ames said 300 or more people could attend. The Web page with the auction details had received more than 7,000 hits by Wednesday afternoon. That’s a comparatively large number, he said.
There will be two auction “rings,” meaning two auctions will be going on simultaneously. Items include more than 28 tractors, at least seven trucks, and a four-wheel drive harvester that Bessemer used for his popular sweet corn. The auction will include a tractor that his grandfather William Bessemer bought in 1937, after founding the farm some years before.
Other items include lots of irrigation pipe and vegetable crates, power washers, and produce equipment, such as a bean tumbler and conveyors.
Bidding will begin at 10 a.m. and is expected to wrap up around 2:30 to 3 p.m., Ames, the auctioneer, said.
Property will be sold to the highest qualified bidder with no limiting conditions or amount.
Bessemer on Wednesday, echoing comments he made last spring, said he quit growing produce out of frustration with pending federal food safety regulations.
The proposed rules likely would require farmers to very specifically track their produce and how it is handled from seed to sale.
Bessemer said grocery company customers already were wanting him to hire a third-party auditor to inspect operations.
Bessemer Farms was known for the sweet corn and other produce that it sold at its farm stand and also at stores. In 2012, Bessemer grew more than two dozen types of produce for Acme Fresh Markets, including corn, radishes, lettuce, green onions and pumpkins.
Bessemer said he turned to soybeans because the law does not apply to commodity crops grown for uses such as oil. Sweet corn is exempt from the new regulations, as are most crops that typically are cooked before being eaten.
The law focuses most intensely on produce that’s usually eaten raw, such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, green onions and fruits — items that often are at the center of nationwide recalls due to contamination.
Bessemer said it would not be economically feasible for him to continue to grow sweet corn while not growing lettuce and the other vegetables covered under the new pending rules.
He said the soybean crops — on more than 100 acres within Akron city limits and on rented land in adjacent Copley Township and Medina — require far fewer workers than the produce did. Now, he has five people on the payroll, including his stepson John Buck.
The soybeans are sold through the Town & Country Co-Op in Smithville.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Beacon Journal food writer Lisa Abraham contributed to this report.