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Charles S. Bean II, 77; ran farm in Westwood, Dover

Charles Swan Bean II '‘was one of the Charles Swan Bean II '‘was one of the
By J.M. Lawrence
Globe Correspondent / June 3, 2010

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Charles Swan Bean II, an organic farmer who operated The Bean Farm in Westwood and Dover for 50 years, was known as much for his farm stand stories as he was for crisp sweet corn and juicy tomatoes.

“It didn’t much matter to Dad if you bought a single tomato or a dozen ears of corn,’’ said his son Peter of Westwood, one of the family’s four boys. “What did matter is if you had a good story to tell or, more importantly, if you were willing to listen to one of Dad’s.’’

Mr. Bean, who served on the board of the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and was a past president of the Norfolk County Farm Bureau, died May 26 of cancer at his home in Westwood. He was 77.

“He was just a gentleman all the way around,’’ said George Luongo, a longtime customer of Mr. Bean’s Westwood farmstand who became a close friend. “He was a hard worker. He knew everything about the business.’’

Mr. Bean, who was known as Charlie, never wore a watch and did not keep regular hours at his farmstand.

“Are you open?’’ customers would ask.

“We are now!’’ Mr. Bean would reply and bring out some corn with a smile, his sons said.

He was committed to growing crops without pesticides long before environmentalism became fashionable.

“Selling vegetables was one passion, but it was the social interaction with the people who came to the farmstand that he loved,’’ said his oldest son, Charles Bean III of Westwood.

Mr. Bean grew up on a farm on Strawberry Hill in Dover. He was the only child of Leon and Hester (McGill). His father raised minks, and the Beans often went to the docks in Boston to buy fish for them.

He graduated from Dover High School in the 1950s with 13 other classmates, and played on the school’s 1949 championship basketball team. He liked to tell the story of the night his Uncle Tom McGill came to see their tournament at the old Boston Garden, looked up at the rows of seats, and declared, “This place would make one hell of a hen house!’ ’’

Mr. Bean passed up a rowing scholarship from Boston University in favor of country life in New Hampshire, where he graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and played basketball, varsity football, and lacrosse.

“He was one of the most honest guys you’d ever meet,’’ said his cousin Dick McGill of Medfield. “He was a farmer, a real farmer, and he was proud of it.’’

Mr. Bean met the woman who would become wife, Elena A. (Pelusi), who was a nurse, when she came to the Dover farmstand for sweet corn. Mr. Bean was instantly smitten, according to his family. He secretly shorted her one ear of corn and then called her up to apologize and ask her out on a date. They were married for 43 years.

He began farming the Westwood land in the late 1950s through a leasing agreement and purchased the farm in 1971. A local history book about Westwood features a 1965 photo of Mr. Bean plowing his fields. He grew more than 330 bushels of corn per acre in those days.

Mr. Bean relied on his wife as the backbone of the family farm, according to their children. Their four sons were each born about a year apart. She raised them while baking pies and banana bread to sell at the farm stand.

“Mom had three of us in diapers at once, and Dad was proud of the fact that he never changed a single one,’’ Pete said in a eulogy he wrote for his father.

Mr. Bean took care of his boys when they were toddlers by hoisting them into the bucket of his tractor for rides as he plowed. “DSS would have had a field day at our house when Mom wasn’t around,’’ Peter said.

Mr. Bean liked to study farm animals’ behaviors, loved his many barn cats, and once mortified his oldest son when he was a guest speaker in his elective class on animals at Philips Academy in Andover.

Mr. Bean required all of his children to don ties and attend the lecture. He told the class how cows always graze in the same direction, how geese will eat only the weeds in a strawberry patch, and how a flock of birds in an open field means rain is coming. His talk ended with his stock phrase, “And that’s animal behavior.’’

“We all wanted to crawl into a hole as we sat sweating out Dad’s animal tales and farm facts,’’ Charles recalled.

When developers came knocking with an eye on buying the Westwood farmland over the years, Mr. Bean would tell them, “Yes, the land’s for sale for $4.’’ Then he would pause for dramatic effect, according to his family, and say, “One dollar from each of my sons.’’

After his death, his grandchildren decorated his beloved John Deere tractor with flowers as a memorial.

In addition to his wife and two sons, Mr. Bean leaves his sons Joseph P. of Reading and Thomas M. of Westwood, and 13 grandchildren. Services have been held. Burial was in New Westwood Cemetery.