Steeped in the ground of Fiala Farms is a tradition that, like the fruits and vegetables that are produced on this 111-year-old West Linn farm, grows each year. It’s a legacy that resonates within the family.
“Being able to put something in the ground, and a few months later retrieve it, sell it, eat it and know that you can do it again, and that people are happy about it, that is a good feeling,” Richard Fiala says. “And trying to pass that on to the next generation is a powerful thing.”
Across the state in rural Grant County, Sharon Livingston also holds tight to a family heritage that dates back more than a century.
“I live in a very pretty spot,” Livingston says. “I don’t have a huge ranch, but it is a very pretty place. I have timber. I have water. I have grass. I have wildlife. And I am very proud of what I have, because we have always worked to make it sustainable.”
Fiala Farms and Livingston Ranch are among 1,200 farms and ranches across Oregon certified as Century Farms. The state’s now nearly 60-year-old Century Farm and Ranch Program honors those held by the same family for more than 100 years.
Sponsored by the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation, the program spotlights the deep roots of Oregon’s farm and ranch families.
Fiala, the third generation of his family to work Fiala Farms, says that growing up, he didn’t see much significance in the farm’s rich heritage. That changed as he grew older.
“Seeing an opportunity to keep production going, keep something special happening instead of putting it into housing, and realizing a one-time reward of paving over and building rooftop to rooftop, actually holds a pretty pleasurable place in me,” he says.
The farm’s history dates back to 1906 when Richard’s grandparents, Jerry and Lucy Fiala, first purchased what was then a 58-acre stump forest along the Tualatin River.
“He grew a lot of cole crops, but also corn and other vegetables,” Fiala says of his grandfather, Jerry. “He would take them by wagon to the Portland Farmers Market. They got up very, very early to make the trip.”
Fiala Farms today is run by Richard Fiala, his three siblings and their children. The farm grows an impressive array of fruits and vegetables, including peaches, cherries, pears and apples, pole beans, sweet corn, and cole crops, like broccoli and cauliflower, all of which they sell from their farmstand, which is open from July until Halloween each year.
Sharon Livingston’s grandparents, C.W. Conger and William Carter, first purchased the property in the Long Creek area in 1888 and 1891, respectively. The marriage of their children J.L. and Rose Conger Carter brought the families together.
Livingston and her husband, Fred Livingston, who has since passed away, took over management of Livingston Ranch in 1966. Now approaching 80, Livingston rents out her pasture to a local rancher, who raises Hereford and Angus beef cattle, but retains ownership of the ranch and helps in management decisions.
“I am very much involved in helping him, because it is my place,” she says. “I take a great deal of pride in ownership. It is important to me because my family came here and they worked hard to put together what I experience today. And I am very grateful for everything they did, because the people that came here lived through some pretty tough times.
“I want to leave this in as good of shape when I pass on as when I got it,” she says, “so the next generation can enjoy it as much as I do.”