Fresh From the Vine: The Story of Beylik Family Farms


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Fresh From the Vine: The Story of Beylik Family Farms

July 3, 2024
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Fresh From the Vine: The Story of Beylik Family Farms

Fresh From the Vine: The Story of Beylik Family Farms

Beylik Family Farms is a small farm in Fillmore, California, that is perhaps best known for its highly sought-after year-round tomatoes. Established in 1971, it has grown over the years from a pioneering hydroponic operation to a model of modern, sustainable agriculture. We recently had the chance to visit the farm to speak with Scott Beylik,  and to learn more about the rich history of Beylik Farms, its current operations, and the cutting-edge technologies and methods that drive its success today.

A Historical Legacy

Scott Beylilk - Beylik Family Farms

The journey of Beylik Farms began with a bold idea and a strong family bond. “My dad was originally in aerospace, and my grandpa was a high school biology teacher,” Scott recalls. “They got this crazy idea back in 1971 to grow tomatoes hydroponically.” At the time, hydroponics was a new and largely unknown technology. The Beyliks were among the pioneers, initially using gravel culture to grow their tomatoes. “They dug out pits, lined them with plastic, filled them with gravel, and recirculated the water,” Scott explains.

This innovative approach set the foundation for what is now a thriving farm. Scott, who grew up on the farm, initially had aspirations outside of agriculture. He found his way back to the family business after studying agricultural policy and marketing. “I realized I liked the farm business and gradually took over as my dad retired,” he says.

greenhouses full of growing tomato vines at Beylik Farms in Fillmore

From the Farm to You

Beylik Farms sits in Ventura County, about an hour northwest of Los Angeles. The farm spans multiple properties, totaling around 24 acres. Six acres are dedicated to greenhouse operations where tomatoes grow year-round in a controlled environment, while another six acres are under lease for avocado cultivation. The remaining 12 acres are for row cropping – producing pepper, squash, cucumbers, and more.

Beylik Farms stands out in farmers markets because they are one of the few farmers who boast a year-round supply of fresh tomatoes. “We stick to growing varieties that have a tremendous amount of flavor. And then we pick red red, or as I say dead red,” explains Scott. “We have four main varieties of tomatoes that we consistently produce. Our largest production is the classic beefsteak tomato, Big Beef. We also grow a Japanese tomato called Momotaro, a yellow tomato, and a San Marzano Roma tomato.” 

They harvest and take the tomatoes directly to the markets. “It’s from harvest to the consumer’s hand in three days,” says Scott. The farm’s diverse crop selection allows them to cater to a wide range of consumer preferences, ensuring that they have something for everyone.

Commitment to Sustainability

Sustainability is a core value at Beylik Farms, guiding their operations and innovations. The farm employs several advanced techniques to minimize its environmental footprint and promote long-term ecological health.

Water Conservation: One of the most significant advancements at Beylik Farms is the implementation of efficient irrigation systems. “We grow hydroponically, which means our plants get exactly the water they need, and nothing goes to waste,” Scott explains. The farm uses a computerized irrigation system that monitors and adjusts water delivery based on sunlight intensity and plant needs. “On sunny days, we water more, and on cloudy days, we water significantly less,” Scott says. This precision reduces water usage and ensures that the plants receive the optimal amount of nutrients.

large bumblebee pollinates tomato flowers at Beylik Family Farms

Bees and Pollination: Pollination is another critical component of the farm’s operations. Being a greenhouse operation, it is essential to bring in natural pollinators like bees. “We use bumblebees specifically bred for greenhouse environments,” Scott explains. These bees are crucial for increasing crop yields and ensuring healthy plant development.

“They don’t produce honey like honeybees, but they are excellent pollinators,” Scott says. The farm is under a special use permit to ensure these bees do not become invasive outside the greenhouse.

A Highly Skilled Workforce

The success of Beylik Farms is largely due to the expertise and dedication of its farmworkers. Farming in a controlled environment that requires a high level of skill and knowledge. “Our team is incredibly specialized,” Scott emphasizes. “Each worker needs to understand the intricacies of working with the plants, from pruning to harvesting.”

As a result, training is a significant component of the farm’s operations. New workers undergo extensive training to learn how to handle the plants without causing damage and how to operate the sophisticated irrigation and nutrient systems. “The learning curve is steep, but our workers are highly skilled and committed to producing the best possible crops,” Scott says.

farmworker ties the tomato vines at beylik family farms

Connecting with the Community

Beylik Farms has a strong presence in about a dozen local farmers’ markets across Southern California, including the renowned Santa Monica Farmers Market. “We sell directly to consumers, which allows us to get immediate feedback and build strong relationships with our customers,” Scott explains. This direct connection ensures that the farm can respond quickly to consumer preferences and maintain high standards of quality.

The farm also supplies produce to local restaurants, with chefs often pre-ordering specific quantities of tomatoes and other crops. “Our restaurant sales are a significant part of our business,” Scott notes. “Chefs appreciate the freshness and quality of our produce, and we enjoy seeing our products featured in local cuisine.”

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Small Farmer

green tomatoes growing on a vine

Beylik Farms is continually exploring new technologies and methods to enhance sustainability and productivity. The farm is experimenting with renewable energy sources to reduce its carbon footprint. Additionally, they are investigating new crop varieties and agricultural techniques to adapt to changing climate conditions and to meet the evolving needs of their customers.

Like all farmers, the weather is a challenge, even when growing in a greenhouse. “This year we had all the cloudy, overcast days. It really hit us and slowed production down,” says Scott. 

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Buy Local

Scott wants the consumer to continue to support small California farmers and give a little grace when they run out of their favorite produce.  “California has done too good a job producing everything we’ve produced. But blips and changes can drastically affect one commodity and our consumers go into shock. ‘Well, what do you mean? You don’t have tomatoes?,’” he remembers his customers asking.

farmer Scott Beylik adjusts a drip sprinkler in his hydroponic tomato hothouse

“We’re not buying them off the wholesale market, we’re not buying the tomatoes out of Mexico and bringing them to you and saying we’re the grower. We’re really the farmer,” says Scott. 

Through Beylik Farms’ commitment to sustainable practices, advanced technologies, and skilled workforce, the Beylik family creates a thriving agricultural enterprise that serves as a model for other small farms. 

“Buy local and support small farmers. You can find some amazing fruits and vegetables at the market. If you’re a foodie and want to find some really unique vegetables and fruits, or you want to find the best tomatoes,” he says with a grin, “you’ll find them at the farmers market.”

Article written by Alison Needham for California Grown. Images by James Collier 

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