Schnepf Farms' expansion to include country inn, cemetery - East Valley Tribune: Queen Creek & San Tan Valley

Schnepf Farms' expansion to include country inn, cemetery

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Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 2:56 pm | Updated: 6:46 am, Fri Sep 10, 2010.

In the current economy, many businesses are looking to diversify - even those as entrenched as Schnepf Farms, the Queen Creek agricultural attraction that traces its roots to 1941.

The farm, located at the corner of Rittenhouse and Cloud roads, recently received approval to build a cemetery on its land and is planning to add a 10-room, country-style inn.

"Our goal is to preserve the farm for future generations. To do that, we have to bring in different types of business," said Mark Schnepf, who with his wife, Carrie, owns the farm founded by his grandparents. "That's why we've done many of the things we have over the years, and the cemetery and inn fit in well with that concept.

"More important, we felt there was a need in the community that needed to be filled."

The cemetery, to be located on the west side of the farm, received approval last week from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and construction will begin within 60 days. Mark Schnepf said that it will operate much like a municipal cemetery, with the general public able to purchase plots.

Plans for the inn, to be located in the middle of one of the farm's peach orchards, are less definitive. The Schnepfs are talking to potential partners to fund the projected $1.5-million facility.

"We're looking at one to two years before we break ground," Mark Schnepf said.

Schnepf Farms, which attracts about 200,000 visitors each year, features a wedding-reception center, concert venue and mini-theme park with rides and a petting zoo. Its biggest annual endeavor, the Pumpkin & Chili Party, is in October.

"We get lots of inquiries during our special events about hotel accommodations," Mark Schnepf said. "We direct them to Mesa and Gilbert, and while we don't mind doing that, we'd like to keep some of that business here. And Queen Creek really needs that anyway with some of the things that are coming."

The Barney Family Sports Complex and Queen Creek Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre opened in 2009, and both facilities host competitors from outside the area. The Banner Ironwood Medical Center opens in November.

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