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Seven Oaks Farm closes produce stand

CENTRAL POINT — Nearly two years after shuttering their fall pumpkin patch, owners of Seven Oaks Farm have announced the permanent closure of their produce stand.

Owners Lori and Jerry Mefford said they spent this winter deliberating and decided it was time to retire from growing and selling produce.

Jerry Mefford said the couple would continue to run the 120-acre farm, adding that they plan to put alfalfa fields where their famed corn, melons and tomatoes once grew.

Posted on the farm Facebook page, which has since been taken down, “To all of our friends and customers, we are retiring from growing produce and are closing our farm stand permanently. We’ve thought about this all winter and have decided the time is right. Between all the rules and regulations and the struggles these last few years getting qualified field help, we’re ready for a change. We are not selling the farm, nor are we growing hemp. We will continue to grow more alfalfa hay, because that is a crop we can do ourselves and not have to try to find additional labor. We appreciate all the wonderful customers we have had the pleasure in serving these last 19 years and cherish the friendships that have been formed.”

Interviewed in 2019, Lori Mefford, whose grandfather John Bohnert purchased the now five-generation farm in the 1920s, cited labor costs and insurance changes as reasons for doing away with the pumpkin patch in 2019.

Bohnert purchased the farm in 1928 and handed the land down to his daughter Doreen and her husband Don Bradshaw, Lori Mefford’s parents. A slew of descendants chipped in over the years to run the farm. Jerry Mefford said a list of issues contributed to closure of the produce stand, a fixture along Highway 99.

“Just the labor deal and some of the rules and regulations that are coming down, it’s just getting too hard for a family operation to keep everything covered. We’re getting close to 60, and we just want to slow it down a little bit,” he said this week.

“Some of the permits and OSHA rules that are going to come out it’s all just too much.”

Mefford said they operated the produce stand for 19 years.

“We didn’t always do the produce stand. We did grass seed and sugar beet seed and fresh market (storage) onions that we sent to San Francisco. When we lost some of the grass seed contracts, we started the produce stand,” he noted.

Central Point resident Verna Edgerton was one of hundreds to send well wishes to the Meffords and Bradshaws this week.

“My husband was always super focused on their corn. He would drive out there just to see how it was growing. For him it was like a countdown to Christmas, just to have his Seven Oaks corn. We'd have to go out there and buy a couple of dozen every week or more,” Edgerton said.

“The girls and I would love to wander the flowers and pick out the best peaches or tomatoes. Of course, in the fall, it was all about finding the perfect pumpkins that fit each member of the family.”

Sams Valley farmer Tamara Heidebrink said she was saddened by closure of the stand but encouraged the farm would continue.

“I think the thing kind of close to my heart is the fact that so many fields have gone to hemp, so I’m glad it will remain a farm. You’d be hard-pressed to find land for sale because of land owners leasing property for hemp. You can lease an acre for $30,000. Hay has gotten so ridiculously expensive because nobody is growing it. It’s pushing hobby farmers right out of the market,” Heidebrink said.

“It doesn’t surprise me they’ll keep it as a farm, but it was still a breath of fresh air.”

A longtime friend of the Bradshaws, Heidebrink said both she and her children have childhood memories of the farm, like many in the region.

“I’ve known the Bradshaws since my first year in 4-H. As an adult I found myself on field trips taking my own children there and petting the animals and letting them ride on the ponies,” she said.

“My parents would grow their own corn — I’d grown my own corn — but we all would still go and buy from Seven Oaks in the summer because there was nothing like it. It’s definitely an end of an era for Southern Oregon.”

A small boost for heartbroken corn fans, the farm will offer corn seed at the May 15 Central Point citywide yard sale. Asked the farm’s trick for growing sweet corn, Mefford credited hard work and finding the best varieties.

“I think the big thing has just been the care we put into the crops. Corn seed is corn seed, and it’s not that ours was the greatest, but it did take us years to figure out which variety we wanted to plant and which ones worked well. Not all sweet corn varieties work in this valley. And time and effort was a big part of it,” Mefford said.

“If people come out to the stand for the yard sale, we’ll sell them some seeds and be happy to tell them a little more about how to grow their own.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneThe produce stand at Seven Oaks Farm in Central Point is closed.