Since 1902, five generations of the Hentze family have lived on a small river bottom farm located two miles due east of Junction City, Oregon. The distinctive farming style practiced by the Hentze clan can be traced back to Johan and Arine Hentze who immigrated to the United States from the Faroe Islands. For more than a century the unspoken goal, "to perpetuate the good life", has driven family members to persevere in the creation of this small but operational farm.
The Hentze journey begins on a sparsely populated archipelago in the mid-north Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland. Johan and Arine were born and raised on the Faroes, however, because their desire to marry was met with staunch resistance they fled the islands in the late 1880s and were married in Denmark. Their aim to immigrate to the United State was improbable since they were a young couple and likely lacked the necessary funds to make the trip across the Atlantic. It is our understanding that sponsorship by the Danish Lutheran Church of America enabled them to realize their vision to immigrate to the USA and build a new life.
It was in 1902 that Johan and Arine arrived in Junction City, OR where their life-long friend and realtor, A.C. Nielsen had purchased an option on 1600 acres of prime farm ground. A.C. divided the property into parcels ranging in size from 20 to 80 acres. Johan and Arine purchased a 42 acre parcel which is now known as the "Hentze Farm". The adventurous couple "raised a small number of hogs, cows and chickens. They cultivated small fields of wheat and barley, had twelve acres of prune orchard and harvested some potatoes to sell. There was also a large house garden with greed and red cabbage, beans, peas, corn and strawberries. The garden also featured curly kale, the essential base for a prized soup."(From "Oregon Danish Colony"/Gerald Rassmussen and Otto N. Larson)
Ejner, Johan and Arines' eldest son, and his wife Olga planted cherry and walnut orchards. They also cultivated boysen and loganberries. They were able to purchase several additional pieces of property in the Junction City area. They hired local youth to help cultivate and harvest their crops; a practice still utilized today.
Merle, Ejner and Arine's eldest son and his wife Alice cleared ground and expanded on the production of berries and cherries. They also established a grade "A" dairy which was in production for 25 years. They sold their 600 pounds of daily milk production to Diary Gold. Merle and Alice grew sweet corn and Blue Lake pole beans which were sold to their local farmers co-operative. As many as 200 local youth participated in the cultivation and harvest of these crops each summer.
When Merle and Alice sold the dairy in 1967, their son Gordon purchased two Black Angus heifers which were the foundation of a small herd that he tended until his sophomore year in college. Gordon served 3 years in Zaire Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer before returning to Junction City with a desire to farm. In 1984, with the help of Merle, Gordon converted the abandoned dairy barn into a country store where he sells fruit, vegetables and nuts. Gordon bought food processing equipment so that he could offer value added products to his customers. Gordon's wife, Jan, resurrected the practice of raising poultry on the farm; a practice which has blossomed in recent years.
Kalina, Gordon and Jan's daughter, and one of the 5th generation on the farm is raising goats, sheep and cattle. She is pursuing an ambitious desire to re-introduce dairy to the farm.
The Hentze farm has become a popular destination for home food preservers from the communities of Junction City, Eugene and Springfield. The farm draws customers from all over the state and has had visitors from all corners of the world. The family see the farm as a passionate work in progress and is looking forward with the unspoken goal to perpetuate the good life squarely in sight.
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