South Berwick, ME
Charley and Carol Baer have operated Baer's Best for the better part of three decades specializing in heirloom bean varieties that have grown in the Northeast since colonial days. Many years ago beans were a New England staple and some local people still remember the Saturday night traditional meal of baked beans and brown bread. Now many people are rediscovering the benefits and pleasures of having beans as a regular part of their diet and finding new ways to enjoy their specialty beans.
Their story begins in central Maine, where Charley got his start growing beans in the 1980's. By this time, dry bean production had been moving further west, and onto ever-larger farms for decades. But as with so many things, regional specialties and rare varieties were abandoned in favor of uniform fields.
With a fleet of mid-century farm equipment, and a handful of classic New England heirlooms from friends and other farmers, Baer’s Best was born. The farm operation has moved from one farm to another, added more equipment, and all the while Charley has continued collecting bean varieties. Now in its third decade growing and supplying beans, Baer's Best is located in southern Maine, where they grow a rotating cast of over 20 varieties of beans, some heirlooms, and some modern standards as well. Many varieties are no longer grown commercially anywhere else.
As a small farm they can harvest each type at peak maturity and quality. After the drying process is complete in the barn, the crop is cleaned with conventional screening machines followed by state-of-the-art gravity separation. One final time-consuming step they take with the beans is to use 100-year-old hand grading machines to do final QC. This results in a top quality product far better than commercial grades. Their crop is always fresh harvest and cooks quickly, without the need for presoaking.