It was 1865. The Civil War had just come to an end, Oregon had transitioned from a territory to the 33rd state, and Aaron Stephens finished his journey across the Oregon Trail to lay claim to a plot of land in the Willamette Valley. Today, Aaron's namesake and great-great-great-great grandson is involved in harvest, if devouring the low hanging cherries is considered part of the workload.
Shad-O-Hill Farms is nestled at the foot of Walnut Hill in the heart of the Willamette Valley. The farm consists of cherries, prunes, grapes and acres of grass seed. Les Stephens, a member of the fifth generation, directs the farm operations. Les’s daughter Gretchen and son-in-law Kris are local educators, and shortly after their full time jobs break for the summer, the sixth generation joins the crew to harvest Shad-O-Hill’s 23 acres of cherries. Gretchen and Chris’s two young sons are eager to join the crew if it could involve operating tractors or four wheelers. All in good time.
Les grew up on the farm and recalls driving a combine at age 11 and hand picking cherries. He was there when the family made an investment in mechanical harvesting equipment in 1969, what was then still very new technology. Les earned a degree in Agricultural Economics from Oregon State University, and he had long and successful career in ag-related industries. Farming remained part-time for much of his life until he retired from Wilbur Ellis to focus his full attention on Shad-O-Hill. Together with his full time manager Alvaro Lopez, they are constantly at work to improve their techniques and stay ahead of the latest farming practices. The mission is to raise productivity all the while maintaining the integrity of the land and environment.
Shad-O-Hill has been supplier of CherryMan cherries for more than twenty five years. Les takes great pride in the stewardship of the land and extending the heritage and history of the farm to the next generations. There is no question that the Stephens family is in the farming business for the long haul. Their nearly 150 year legacy will march on for years to come.