Auntie Bean's hosts CROP event
"You have to put 10 in the bucket before you eat one," Charlene Walker cheerfully reminds her children as they pick peas in their bountiful garden.
"These are delicious," 11-year-old Malachi Walker says, breaking open a pea pod to get to the fat, ripe peas.
It's just another summer day at Auntie Bean's farm.
The family is picking peas to sell to a regular customer, and they are making plans to host their second Crooked River Open Pastures event.
CROP is a series of pop-up farmers markets, farm tours, and events held throughout Crook County during the summer months.
Auntie Bean's will host a CROP event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21 at their Madras Highway farmstand, selling produce fresh from their garden as well as lamb, beef and their homemade soap.
Charlene and her husband, Charlie, opened the farmstand two years ago and joined CROP last year.
Because they wanted to raise their three children in an agricultural setting, they moved from the Juniper Canyon area to a 16-acre spot west of Prineville four years ago.
Their new property included a small building that Charlene dreamed of turning into a farmstand. Charlie was all for it, so they painted it red, added a door and built a porch. Two years ago, they opened Auntie Bean's Farmstand, selling their items two days a week.
"My nickname was Bean. That's where the Bean comes from. When my sisters had kids, to say Aunt Charlene was difficult, so I've always been Aunt Bean," Charlene explained, adding that she had an uncle who would sing "Charleney Beanie" to her. "When we were trying to name the farmstand, Charlie goes, 'I think you should name it Auntie Bean's.' That's kind of a shout out to my nieces and nephews."
At their previous home, the Walkers raised lamb and beef, but when they moved, they added vegetables to their business.
Currently, they have around 20 head of grass-fed cattle, which graze on leased property, as well as 12 grass-fed ewes and 15 baby lambs. The farm also includes horses, chickens, dogs and a vegetable garden.
They raise tomatoes, broccoli, basil, peppermint, cabbage, cauliflower, purple cabbage, peppers, peas, beets, onions and carrots in the "garden proper." In a second garden, they raise cantaloupe, watermelon, corn, potatoes and pumpkins.
Charlene also has a handmade soap line called Silly Bean Soap, named after her three silly bean kids. She sells her lye- and oil-based soap at the farmstand as well.
The kids help out on the farm, harvesting the produce, picking rocks, pulling weeds and taking care of the animals.
Isaiah, 12, says he likes living on a farm, but sometimes it can get pretty hard, like wrestling down a sheep for weighing.
More than a year ago, another CROP member invited the Walkers to join the organization of Crook County growers, and they are glad they did.
The Crook County Small Farm Alliance and High Desert Food and Farm Alliance partner to support CROP.
"What you find in CROP is you find others like me wanting to eat what we raise but then also wanting to nourish our community with good food as well and make that available to our community," Charlene said. "It's been super supportive."
Both last year and this year, Charlene and her 9-year-old daughter, Serenity, have attended the CROP events as vendors. Serenity likes going so she can sell her homemade cookies as a fundraiser for a youth horse program she wants to join.
Charlene has enjoyed getting to know the other growers as well as the customers.
"It really has given me the ability to learn from other people in how I can better my product – how I can do this better and make it more available," she said.
Charlene expects 15 to 20 vendors to attend her July 21 CROP event. Prineville Lavender will be there, as well as another beef grower, Powell Butte Bison, other vegetable growers, and another soap maker from Just 1 Acre.
"Each one of them has different things that they sell," Charlene said. "They'll end up setting up their canopies all around the farmstand here."
There will be food, hot dogs, drinks, Serenity's cookies and farm tours. Charlene will do a soap-making demonstration at 11 a.m. Serenity will give horseback rides to children as a fundraiser.
Their little red farmstand will be open, offering fresh seasonal vegetables from their garden, lamb, beef and her special soaps.
She encourages the locals to attend not only her CROP event but any of the seasonal pop-up farmers markets.
"If you come to a CROP event, you're getting vegetables that are grown in Crook County," Charlene said, adding that you'll also be supporting your neighbor. "It ends up getting to be a little festive atmosphere."
Auntie Bean's Farmstand CROP Event
Date: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, July 21
Place: 11828 NW Madras Highway (9 miles west of Prineville)
Farmstand hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday and Friday through October