The Arizona Republic
By ANGELA CARA PANCRAZIO
The Arizona Republic
The light breeze stirs the long leaves on the rows and rows of corn at Young’s Farm.
A man in faded denim who goes by the name of Farmer Buzz sits on a picnic bench overlooking the acres of sweet corn ready for harvesting.
For the past dozen years or so, Buzz Fournier has become a fixture at the Young’s family farm in Dewey.
Soon, Farmer Buzz’s hayrides, his tour of what looks, feels and smells like an Arizona farm, will end.
After the fall pumpkin festival, the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys, on the last day of December, the Young family is leaving for good. After 60 years and three generations of Youngs, houses will replace the sugar-sweet corn and pumpkins.
In these final months, Fournier gets a lump in his throat when reality hits that his longstanding identity as Farmer Buzz will vanish.
Over the years, he’s recited the history of Young’s Farm countless times for visitors, of how in 1946 Elmer Young, fresh out of the Navy after World War II, along with his wife, Lavera, began farming in Dewey on 80 acres, growing hay and beans. Then, how Young, his son Gary and two grandchildren Aaron Young and Sarah Young Teskey grew the farm to 324 acres and became the only fresh-turkey farm in the state.
There will be no more Young’s Farm, no more rural playground for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans each year.
The Youngs had been trying to save the farm near Prescott since the late 1990s when the state Department of Water Resources determined that the area’s shrinking water supply could no longer support agriculture. The family devised a campaign to raise money to match a grant that would have allowed them to preserve the land. They were unable to come up with enough money. Last year, they sold their property to Monogram Companies in Scottsdale, which plans to build homes, office and retail space.
Saying goodbye to the rich landscape is one thing, but it’s the people that returned season after season and who came to know him only as Farmer Buzz whom he’ll miss.
Children have grown up with Farmer Buzz.
“Some (children) have been coming for 12 years for my hayrides and now some of those are up in high school,” said Fournier, 66.
“Usually each year they get their picture taken with me next to the big tractor tire, and that’s kind of the measure of their growth. The mothers bring their scrapbooks and pictures.”
Fournier, a former high school science teacher and pharmaceutical executive from Toledo, Ohio, moved to Arizona about 13 years ago. He bought a cattle ranch three miles from Young’s Farm.
Fournier and Young, now 81, met while Fournier was buying hay from Young.
Little by little, Fournier was able to get Young to talk about himself.
Young would drive the truck as Fournier threw the hay on the truck. After they were done they’d go to the well for cold water and conversation.
“Elmer Young found a gabby old guy like me to tell his story,” Fournier said.
The two struck a deal that Fournier would lead weekend tours atop an old tractor in exchange for Young’s hay.
Now, Fournier, the newcomer, will continue to run his own ranch. And the Youngs who are leaving are already cutting hay at their new ranch in central Oregon.
Like all traditions, the Farmer Buzz corn-shucking method will endure only if someone takes the memory of the dungaree-clad Fournier gently ripping through the corn “in two pulls with no hair on it” and passes it forward.
Anyone who has seen Fournier do the trick can imagine him standing next to the wagon loaded with fresh corn.
“Take the hair at the top and divide it in two,” he said.
Just so you remember, he said, “make a mustache.”
“Now you take one of the mustaches and you pull it off,” he said, ripping the ear of corn. “No hair left. Now you break off that top part that nobody eats, slowly gather the rest of the hair. And just kind of strip it down.
“And there you are,” he said, holding up a well-groomed ear of corn. “You’re ready to eat.”
Away from the wagon and the people, near the last corn harvest, the robust Farmer Buzz turns somber.
“The Youngs have given me the arena, the farm to play on . . . and I told them a long time ago that truly, they wouldn’t have to pay me, this was a joy for me to do,” Fournier said, holding back tears. “And yes, I do get choked up, talking about the loss of Young’s Farm.”