Town Celebrates the Lowly Lima Bean
By RON ALEXANDER
Published: October 19, 1988
IN the seashore resort of Cape May, N.J., which is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, mid-October is synonymous with Victorian Week tours of grand homes, tulip-bulb planting, migrating birds and the last days to sit on porches in still-warm but waning sunlight. Separated from Cape May by Wilbraham Park is West Cape May, landlocked and noted for its lima-bean farms.
Even the Mayor of West Cape May, Jack Vasser, has a bean farm. But the biggest – 700 acres – is owned by Leslie C. and Ernest A. Rea, brothers who are third-generation growers. Their large, meaty Ford Hooks have just been harvested. ”Lima beans thrive on the light, sandy soil found in this area,” said Sam Evans, the Reas’ field supervisor.
It was only natural, then, that three years ago, when the West Cape May Business Association decided the time was ripe to give the borough an identity of its own, the highest-sprouting suggestion was for a Lima Bean Festival. Today, not only is there a National Lima Bean Association, which organizes the festival, but there is also a Society for the Preservation of the Lima Bean, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to call attention to South Jersey’s vanishing farmlands.
The society’s unofficial motto, said Bobbi Cherrelle, is ”Fewer mini-malls, more limas!” Ms. Cherrelle, the society’s founder, was the first Miss Lima Bean. There was, of course, bound to be a Miss Lima Bean, and the latest, Marybeth Smith, was crowned the other day at the third annual Lima Bean Festival held at Wilbraham Park.