What does it take to make a living from the land?

For Randy Henderson and his family, the family farm has meant a lot of hard work and commitment to growing quality fruits and vegetables at their Thistledown Farm. But the payoff is loyal customers who return time and again to fill their baskets with freshly picked produce. “We see a lot of the same people, sometimes three days a week,” Randy said. “There are  a lot of older people who use this as a field trip. They envision our place as ‘their’ farm, and we do their gardening for them.”

The Henderson’s picturesque farm, complete with a classic red, gambrel-roofed barn, is located about 5 miles north of Eugene, Oregon. It is a true family business, operated by Randy, his wife, Pam, and two of their three sons. The family works the land, sells the produce at the farm stand, employs four workers year-round and hires up to 18 more people as farm-stand clerks and field hands at different times of the year. “We’re in a unique situation with retailing our products,” Henderson said. “It’s a lot more lucrative.” The reason, he explained, is that they control the entire growing process, from planting the seed to harvesting, cleaning and selling the produce. Over the last three decades, they’ve also gradually grown the business. “We always had the orchards, and then we expanded into the vegetables,” Randy said. “The business has grown substantially every year. We’re growing a lot more crops, and we have a bigger customer base. We don’t have too many years that were worse than the year before.”