Schnepf Farms is a Queen Creek treasure. No, it’s more than that. It’s an Arizona treasure.
Three hundred acres in the middle of sprawl where fruit and pine trees grow, hawks soar, and Queen Creek’s pioneer past is preserved in buildings that the Schnepf family has salvaged and placed into a kind of rural theme park.
|Click for enlarged image|
|Aerial view of Schnepf Farms.|
What the Schnepfs call “the park road” is anchored by the potato mill Mark Schnepf’s father built and that allowed early Queen Creek to boast that it was the potato Capital of Arizona.
On its fields, the farm hosts the Pumpkin Festival in the fall, public peach harvesting in the spring, the Queen Creek Kiwanis Fourth of July celebration, the American Heritage Festival with reenactments of Revolutionary and Civil War battles, its annual celebrity corn maze, and outdoor weddings.
There’s more, including Edgefest on the last Saturday in September, which is, well, edgier than the other events and in the middle of a controversy involving the farm and its efforts to host more concerts.
Edgefest is an alternative rock music festival. My son has tried to explain alternative rock to me, but so far all I’ve figured out is that it’s loud and not Peter, Paul and Mary.
At my request, Mark Schnepf gave me a tour of the farm last Thursday.
Over the years I had run into Mark and Carrie Schnepf at various charitable events, but I hadn’t visited the farm since the mid-1990s, and I didn’t understand how hard the couple had worked at turning it into a destination while preserving its farm feel.
So here’s the issue:
The Schnepfs want the town council to allow them to host large concerts—up to 15,000 people--for 12 days out of the year.
To do that, Schnepf needs a super majority of six out of seven council votes. The vote was delayed earlier this month and is now scheduled for Feb. 18.
Some neighbors have submitted a petition opposing the request. They don’t want the noise, dust and traffic and the sort of people who come to events that aren’t family focused.
I can sympathize. I once complained to my city council member about the noise from planes that fly over my house to Sky Harbor.
In so many words, I was told “You live in a big city. Get over it.”
My life was inconvenienced, but I have to admit it was also convenienced by having a major airport just 20 minutes away. So, I’m getting over it.
That’s what I think the Schnepf’s neighbors should do.
Schnepf is considerate of his neighbors in words and in deeds. He is meticulous in complying with dust mitigation during events. He has rows of trees bordering the farm to absorb much of the sound. Concert speakers are pointed south not west toward the neighbors.
Schnepf doesn’t dispute that concert music does waft over the trees, but let’s do the math. If there are 12 days of concerts, then there are 353 days without concerts.
That’s 353 days for the neighbors to the west to pull out their lawn chairs, watch the hawks flying over the trees and enjoying life next to the expanse of a 300-acre farm, not a sea of red-tile roofs, not a strip mall. How many of the rest of us can do that?
Regardless of what happens to Schnepf Farms, the same neighbors one of these days are going to see a dirt path turned into a six-lane Riggs Road that services a new WestCor mall that will be on the south side of the farm.
Folks, you need to keep Schnepf Farm going or your rural lifestyle someday soon will disappear. Gone forever.
Schnepf has resisted the temptation to sell the family’s remaining 300 acres for development. He wants to preserve his past and the community’s past by making the farm profitable through events.
“We’re using change to preserve the past,” he tells me. “It makes no economic sense to continue the farm—unless I can make it profitable.”
He says he can’t do that on the income he receives from the peach trees, pumpkin festivals and such. That’s why he needs 12 days a year in which he can host large concerts.
Not a bad deal for all of us. He preserves his family’s heritage and Queen Creek’s heritage and we city folks get a place to go when we feel the need to get closer to the land or to whoop it up with big city music.
The farm is a treasure. It’s Queen Creek’s treasure.
Without it Queen Creek is, well, Gilbert.
Why the town council would even hesitate in preserving its heritage, this destination, this town icon is beyond me.