Meet Your Merchant: Farmer Bob offers organic produce, old-fashioned service
Bob Keyser can’t remember how long he’s been interested in growing and selling produce – it’s always been a passion for him.
“Many years,” said Keyser, 53, of Penn Valley. It’s “good, clean living.”
Keyser, more widely known as Farmer Bob, is the owner of Farmer Bob’s produce stand, located behind The Union office off Sutton Way, at the end of Olympia Park Circle in Grass Valley.
“This is my first year back here,” Keyser said after relocating from the parking lot near Perkos Cafe, a block away. “It’ll be better next year. Takes a while for people to find ‘ya.”
Music blared from a car radio near a table and chair set up for Keyser to kick back between serving customers. His stand is shaded with a red-and-white striped awning, and patrons can park on gravel before they peruse and purchase.
White and orange pumpkins, small and large, dot the lot and rest on hay bales. Tall trees provide patches of shade on a sunny fall day. Cornstalks, gourds and winter squash proclaimed the season.
The butternut squash is a good seller, said Keyser.
Farmer Bob’s accepts cash or check. You’ll receive a hand-written receipt after the total is tallied with a calculator – an old-fashioned process with old-fashioned service from someone always willing to answer questions about anything from volunteering at the stand to growing tips.
“A lot of people ask me many questions, questions on their tomatoes, things like that,” he said.
Keyser usually mans the stand alone. Getting more employees is a possibility “if the opportunity” arises, he said.
Farmer Bob’s, open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, is more accessible than a farmers market and offers local organic produce that may not always be available at big-box stores, Keyser said.
Keyser’s family moved to Nevada County from Michigan when he was a boy. He graduated from Nevada Union High School.
Before donning his Farmer Bob outfit, Keyser worked in the oil industry. He recalled how workers in the refineries wore rubber suits for protection and how explosions were a threat.
“People were dying,” he said.
He prefers farming because it involves fewer chemicals and it’s less dangerous, he added.
And it’s tastier.
Farmer Bob’s offerings include honey, jam, apples and Asian pears, in addition to pumpkins in the fall and Christmas trees in the winter. His tomatoes are what he’s known for.
“During the summer, I mainly have organic heirloom tomatoes. We grow some melons, and then I buy and sell some local products that I get from Yuba City and Marysville – peaches and nectarines,” Keyser said of his seasonal produce selection, which is grown organically on about 100 acres in Gridley.
Farmer Bob’s is open year-round. “Hopefully it won’t be raining very many days,” he said of the upcoming winter months. “If it’s raining real hard, I stay closed.”
Keyser is actively engaged in the community.
He donated 700 pumpkins to The Union’s Seventh Annual Fall Home & Harvest Festival for Paint the Town Pink, benefiting breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment. About $350 was raised through selling and painting the squash, said The Union’s events manager, Tara Walters.
Keyser is sponsoring a pumpkin carving and decorating contest through Halloween Day, with winners receiving a free Christmas tree from his lot.
“A noble fir from Oregon,” he specified. Trees will be available for purchase at Farmer Bob’s soon.
He also gave away Christmas trees last year.
Keyser previously has donated tomatoes to Interfaith Food Ministry, and gives tomatoes to the Nevada County Food Bank as often as possible.
Anyone wanting to help with the tomato project for the Food Bank can contact him at (530) 559-2246.
To contact Reader Liaison Angela Diaz, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4203.
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