It wasn’t until this year that Mark Schnepf and his family moved out of the farm house where he grew up. The ranch-style home, located at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, is being remodeled into a wedding reception venue.
The renovation is just one example of the adaptability Schnepf, his parents and grandparents have had over the last 65 years to keep the farm running. “It’s been a long, tough haul but we feel very good because our ability to adapt allows us to preserve the family farm,” Schnepf said. “We’re very excited to celebrate our 65th year.”
In 1941, Schnepf’s grandparents bought what is now the 300-acre farm, which started as a cotton-growing operation. The family later moved on to growing chipping potatoes — the type potato chips are made from. At the farm’s peak in the 1970s, there were 5,000 acres of crops being grown.
The Schnepfs even tried growing pistachios, but after 15 years without producing so much as one nut, they ended up with the most expensive firewood they’ve ever had, he said. In the 1980s and ‘90s, the farm downsized and produced acres of mixed vegetables that were sold straight from the farm.
“We’ve diversified,” Schnepf said. “Without that, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We’re a real family farm, and we’re not changing from that foundation.”
Now Schnepf Farms attracts more than 200,000 people each year for its festivals and activities, including a Peach Festival in May and the farm’s popular Pumpkin and Chili Party during the fall. Visitors can also walk through Mark Schnepf’s parents’ original farm home that’s been converted to a museum about the farm’s history.
“As other farms are closing down and selling to developers, we keep plugging away,” said Carrie Schnepf, Mark’s wife. “We hope our family will be running the farm 100 years from now.”
To maintain the rural feel as neighborhoods and development build up around them, Mark Schnepf has been planting hundreds of large trees around the perimeter of the property as a screen so farm guests won’t be able to see the rooftops popping up around the farm.
“We’re very aware that we’re going to be surrounded,” he said. “This gives us a buffer.”
The farm opens to celebrate 65 years of farming Oct. 5 and remains open Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 31.
If you go
What: Schnepf Farms opens for its 65th anniversary celebration of family-operated farming
Where: 24810 S. Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek
When: Opens Oct. 5 for Chili and Pumpkin Party - 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday