Rob Horton, of the Bee Organic Farm and Apiary, grows amazing vegetables: mouth-watering tomatoes that put grocery store varieties to shame, beautiful bunches of carrots and beets that look like art and taste like heaven. Horton set a goal to produce “the tastiest, most nutritious food anywhere on the planet.” And he seems to be succeeding.

Horton did not start out as a farmer. After building a career in construction management, he and his wife, Rocki, bought a 10-acre property in Elma and settled in to raise their children in the country. As the children grew up and moved away, Rob and Rocki turned their attention to their community.

“We decided we didn’t want to just live day by day,” says Horton. “We wanted to do something meaningful for our community, something that would be good enough to be a model for other communities.”

Back then, Rocki wore the gardening gloves in the family. One day, she showed Rob a YouTube video about a famous market gardener, and Rob had an aha moment. Creating a local food source system could prove just the community-minded project they were looking for. But they had to do it right. “When I put my mind to something, I want to do it in a way that creates the best end product,” he explains.

Photo by Rick Moyer

For Horton, that means growing food the way nature intended it to be done, with an eye to the helping the environment and growing the highest quality produce. And so, he immediately got to work, taking class after class to learn about composting, cover crops and small farm operations. In 2019, after testing several growing methods, the Hortons were growing enough fresh produce to try a test run at the market. While they always intended to focus on their Elma community, they decided to start in Aberdeen. “I figured a lot less people know us in Aberdeen, so we could fall on our faces there,” laughs Horton.

Far from falling on their faces, the Bee Organic Farm stand sold out in just one hour. They brought more produce the next week, but still sold out quickly. It seemed the training had paid off. They had created a demand. Now they had to find a way to meet that demand.

Over the next year, Horton made improvements to increase efficiency. Thanks to grants, he was able to hire some help and also partner with the agriculture program at Elma High School. Since then, he has expanded to include not only the Aberdeen Sunday Market, but also the farmers markets in Montesano and Elma. Additionally, he sells tomatoes through Haggen grocery stores and offers produce through his website ( and the Southwest Washington Food Hub (

Photo by Rick Moyer

The Hortons practice regenerative farming, a more ambitious cousin of organic farming. Beyond simply addressing the harm caused by pesticides, regenerative farming focuses on growing crops in a way that actually improves soil fertility, increases biodiversity and generates greater yield.

Additionally, because fresh-picked produce delivers the most nutrition and the best flavor, the Hortons set an ambitious rule for themselves. That is, they bring their produce to market within 24 hours of harvesting. That means long Saturdays and early Sunday mornings in the gardens. But, as the Hortons’ fiercely loyal customers will attest, the backbreaking labor pays off.

The increasing demand also creates problems to solve. Growing and harvesting the amount of produce customers will buy requires additional washing and packing facilities, cold storage, more hands. And that requires capital, ideally a partner that catches the vision and can help make the project sustainable.

Because, for Horton, producing and selling exceptional produce represents part of a larger goal. “We have created a new local food source system,” he explains. “If we work together, we have the capabilities to create something wonderful for our planet. That’s how we’re going to feed our world.” As he works toward this goal, Horton looks forward to market season, to the camaraderie and to the smiles on his customers’ faces.

“I’m excited to see the people again,” he says. “I can’t wait to get the tables full, to stack it high and watch it fly!” But be sure to get to the Bee Organic farm stand early, because produce that delicious, flies fast.

Photo courtesy of Rob Horton