Sunday, February 8, 2009


The New York State Agricultural Society honors families dedicated to farming, stewardship and community involvement in New York, and a Gasport farm recently was one of two local farms named “Century Farms,” in continuous family ownership and operation for more than 100 years.

Becker Farms received the honor, along with Amos Zittel & Sons in Eden. Both families received a proclamation signed by Gov. David A. Paterson, as well as an exterior farm sign. The award is sponsored by Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement.

Becker Farms was established by Julius and Augusta Becker in 1894. The first two generations raised a variety of farm products, including chickens, cows, pigs and the field crops to feed them; also raising and selling apples, peaches, plums, pears and cherries.

Second-generation farmer Frank Becker had no sons, and the farm went to his daughter, Joyce. Her husband, Don Perry, kept the farm going on a part-time basis as he worked at General Mothers. He added tart cherries, which were mechanically harvested.

Over the first three generations, the farm acreage had grown to 340 acres, 200 of it tillable. In 1980, the fourth generation, Don & Joyce’s daughter, Melinda, took over the farm operation along with her husband, Oscar Vizcarra. Both are Cornell University graduates who continue working the farm today with their two grown children, Amanda and Andres. With the couple’s education and Oscar’s background from Lima, Peru, and a New York City influence, they have transformed the farm to a retail, pick-your-own and agrientertainment location. Activities include the Pumpkin Fiesta, Haunted Hayride and school tours for 14,000 children annually. Upon Amanda’s return from Alfred in 2004, they started a winery. Andres returned to the farm last spring from RIT with a degree in illustration and is in charge of creative needs for the farm, in addition to a wide variety of other duties.