Nestled in the rolling hills north of California, Wisdom Valley Farms is built on 100 picturesque acres of a family's soil, sweat and love.
Farm manager and patriarch Mose Hershberger took a chance when he decided to forgo pesticides this season and open an all-natural grocery store on his property May 24, where customers can stand on the store's porch and look down the hill at their home, greenhouse, vegetable gardens, orchard and cattle herd. Customers may see the Amish family's nine children running about helping their parents, and Sparky the horse trotting along with a wagon in tow as the sun crosses over the valley.
Hershberger, a dark-haired young father born in Ohio with a life-long dream to grow produce, said it was worth the business risk to feed his family all-natural food and share the bounty with his neighbors rather than haul his produce to a distant auction, as he had for more than a decade. But, he is confident their family, held together by a strong matriarch in Rebecca Hershberger, will be able to build a beautiful business, open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday off the gravel road at 3896 Wisdom Dr.
"I had been growing conventional (using pesticides) for some years already for the Central Missouri Produce Auction, and this was my year to renew my pesticide license," Hershberger said. "I got convicted that I don't want to do that. A lot of that is due to the fact that we have nine children and four of those nine are special needs children, and it has made me very aware that we need to change this food chain. I want to do my part to change that."
Hershberger and farm assistant Charita Barclay laughed when asked what sorts of produce they offer. "It's easier to tell you what we don't offer," Barclay said.
Some of the goods within the Wisdom Valley cornucopia include lettuce, greens, flowers, strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, eggs, beef and their prized tomatoes that have been very popular at area farmers' markets. Later, there will be pumpkins, apples, squash and more.
The products are non-GMO and the cattle were born and raised on the farm without hormones or medications.
For the moment, their refrigeration is limited to what can fit into the icebox, filled with eggs and strawberries kept cold by chunks of ice from last winter. In the future, Hershberger hopes to include pork raised by a nearby family member, as well as possibly adding a bakery when his children get a little older.
For now, they are developing a Community Service Agriculture (CSA) program for customers who would like to pay in advance for weekly produce boxes filled with the in-season fruits and vegetables, as well as other products. The CSA program helps the operation prepare for the strenuous spring planting season.
Hershberger said he has been greatly aided by family on other farms and nearby neighbors, like marketing assistant Anita Wyman, but he has to give the most credit to his wife for making the new business possible.
It takes a lot for his wife to raise nine children, keep a home in order, prepare for farmers markets and see to customers five days a week. Of all the things he's heard in his life, one phrase rings the truest: "Behind every successful man is a strong woman."