Our Farm's History

It's a Sweet Story (Literally)

One morning in June of 1978, James Hepner, Jr. was heading out to do chores on his family's farm when he came across Kathy picking cherries in the orchard. Jim, who was on his summer break from teaching, may have been momentarily conflicted between the list in hand and the pretty girl in the tree, but not for long. Imagine Jim's dad's surprise when he came in from work that evening to find Kathy and his son in the kitchen with a passel of cherries . . . but not a single farm chore done.

 

Kathy and Jim were married six months later.

 

Those cherry trees were part of the two orchards growing on the original 150 or so acres of the Hepner Farm purchased in the 1880s by Jim's great-grandfather Samuel Hepner. Back in the day there were also apple, peach and pear trees, in addition to the cattle, chickens, sheep and hogs, hay, corn, wheat, barley and rye were harvested by horse drawn equipment.

 

Fast forward a few decades. Samuel' son Bryan farmed the land when the time came, and then James Sr. In 1989, Kathy and Jim settled with their two sons Josh and Mark on the eight acres we now know as Fairview Oaks Farm. The boys are now grown. The orchards are now gone, though there are a few trees remaining down by the pond. The drying house is gone, too. But goats have replaced the cattle and hogs, and there are now egg chickens AND meat chickens, peacocks and guinea hens. Jim helps his dad farm the adjoining 100+ acres of the original Hepner Farm. In other words, farming continues to be a way of life for the Hepners.

 

As with many farmers, Jim and Kathy have worked “traditional” jobs in addition to farming. Jim at a manufacturing plant in Mount Jackson and Kathy as a social worker for Shenandoah County. However, Jim recently retired from his job of 17 years to work the farms full-time, selling from the homestead as well as at local farmers' markets. The hoophouse is filled, and the seeds are planted in the gardens he tilled up in the spring. Kathy has a store of jellies and jams. Eggs are aplenty, and the goats and peacocks are happy. There is also a nice little stash of guinea eggs he hopes will add to his flock of hens. “Retirement” seems to agree with Jim. Having grown up on the Hepner Farm, the rhythm of farming comes naturally to him, and he hopes to pass that on to his grandchildren.

 

Jim and Kathy will probably tell you, should you ever ask them, that farming can be a hard way of life, but it's a GOOD life.