Jersey County, Illinois
Joe’s grandfather first planted roots for the Ringhausen Orchard in 1928. In 1957, after returning from two years in the military, Joe and his brother Casey bought out their father, who had inherited the orchard from his father before him, splitting the property in half.
Joe invested in a new packing house, cold storage space and cider mill. In need of a centralized location to sell their products, the Ringhausens also purchased additional acres to use both for production and retail sales, a stand still operated by Joe and Sina Lou’s son, Dennis.
In addition to the farm stand, the Ringhausens also sell at the farmers market. “We have met a lot of great people at the farmers market who have come up to the farm to pick fruit themselves. Once they find out we grow the produce ourselves, they come back and bring their whole family,” Joe said.
At Ringhausen Orchard, diversification is vital. Today, they grow more than peaches and apples; they’ve expanded into producing plums, cherries, nectarines, blackberries, pumpkins and gourds, watermelon, rhubarb, tomatoes in a greenhouse and apple cider. “We’ve been here for 50 years and we keep finding things to get into. Even as a specialty farmer, it is important to diversify because you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature and those animals love our fruit,” said Sina Lou.
Years of hard work among the fruit trees and plants have taught the Ringhausens the importance of hard work and persistence, a lesson that they now teach to the countless high school students they hire during the summer months. Gaining a taste for what it means to manage an orchard, one of these high school students, Justin Goetten, grew up to be the Ringhausens loan officer at Farm Credit Illinois. “I will always be grateful for the hard-working values that the Ringhausens demonstrated to their orchard employees. Now, many years later, I’m proud to return to the farm knowing I can help in different ways when needed,” Justin said.
Joe’s Farm Credit connection spans beyond training young Farm Credit loan officers; he also served on the board of directors in the 1980s. “It was a challenge, but it helped me understand the business and get to know my loan officer. To this day, Farm Credit’s entire Jerseyville staff treats us like family,” Joe said.
Despite the challenges they’ve faced and the hardship they’ve endured, Joe and Sina Lou still love their life at the orchard. Joe said, “Through the years, the feeling of growing a good peach has never gotten old.”
This story originally appeared in Farm Credit Illinois’ biannual newsletter, Cultivations.