When Curtis Bashaw and his partner Will Riccio acquired the land that is now Beach Plum Farm in 2007 the vision was to grow food for the Cape restaurants and to perhaps one day build a home. They were inspired by the farming heritage of Southern New Jersey and knew that the region's economy was always a mixture of tourism, fishing and farming. A farming tradition is also deeply rooted in Congress Hall's history: the Miller and Cake families were owners of Congress Hall for a good part of the 1800s, and they owned a farm in West Cape May where food was grown to feed guests in the hotel.
As the years have passed Beach Plum has become much more than a tract of land with a few crop yields each season – it is now a destination for thousands of visitors to see the animals raised and witness the food that is grown. When the farm stand first opened in 2011, it was merely a white tent with a cooler full of vegetables and eggs, along with a few bottles of farm-raised honey. In 2015, the barn was added, giving the Farm Market a permanent home. The following year, the addition of a kitchen meant visitors can enjoy breakfast, lunch and special farm to table dinners while surrounded by nature's beauty.
When the opportunity arose to acquire the original farmhouse and barn, its no wonder that Bashaw and Riccio jumped at the opportunity.
And so the vision was born to create cottages and barns on the farm for people to stay and participate in the rhythm of farm life. Their goal was to create a place where guests could arrive and leave the car behind as they are handed keys to a golf cart and bicycles to ride around the farm, to the beach, or to all of the favorite places downtown. It would be a place where guests could ask to have the fridge stocked with fresh eggs and meats at turn-down service in the evening in order to cook their own breakfast in the morning. A place where they could choose to start their morning in the main barn and join others for breakfast; to participate in the egg harvest, or potato or strawberry harvest, or whatever may be ready for the picking that day; to take a dip in the pool set in an orchard or simply to wind down the evening sitting around a campfire, enjoying the sounds of the night under the light of the stars.
There are five residences on the farm – two cottages and three barns – sleeping from 2 – 12 in various configurations; featuring cooks kitchens, screened porches, wood stoves and comfy rooms.
The Whaler's Cottage: Sleeping 2 – 8, this cottage dates back to the late 1700s, making it one of the oldest homes on Cape Island. Philip Hand was a descendant of Mayflower pilgrims who found their way to the southern tip of New Jersey chasing the burgeoning whaling industry. Philip established a plantation and when his daughter Martha was married, he built a home on a parcel of land as a wedding gift. This cottage features the original winding staircase and fireplace from the 1700s, along with a and special kids loft. The Whalers was the homestead for what has become Beach Plum farm, with an atmosphere that hearkens back to the early frontier days on Cape Island.
The Winona Cottage: Sleeping 2 – 12, this cottage is one of the original Sears, Roebuck and Co mail order homes. In the first half of the twentieth century, the company launched the Modern Homes program, which sold over 75,000 homes between 1908 and 1940. The Winona was a popular model between 1927 and 1932. The arts and crafts cottage vibe runs throughout the house with its beautiful floors and airy screened southern facing porch.
The Barns: Sleeping 2 – 8, the Plum Barn dates to 1850s and was used as a carriage house. It has been restored featuring the original beams and beadboard that were used when the barn was converted into a home in the 1950s. The Hill Barn is set atop a rise next to a towering Dawn Redwood. The Hidden Barn is nestled in a grove of evergreens. Both were built in 2018 by the same Lancaster County, Pennsylvania family who built the farm’s main barn in 2015. Using Pennsylvania Hemlock and old fashioned mortise and tenon joinery, the timber frames were raised on a chilly March day and are held together with wooden pegs. All three barns have a rustic charm, full kitchens, spacious screened porches and wood stoves.