Country kids continue century of farming
When visitors arrive at his late grandfathers farm, nine-year-old Owen Finegan greets them with facts about bygone crops and livestock that sprouted his family farming traditions.
His excitement and his talking increases en route to the old, red barn that smells of dust and straw, where hell show off the antique leather horse tack, dusty and hardened now that its been rendered obsolete. The once indispensable six-horse team that used to work the fields has long since been replaced by tractors.
Harnesses and wagons have been replaced by combines and trucks. But thats still Owens favorite part of the farms history. Im more of an animal person, said Owen, one of Jennifer and Joe Finegans four children. I like how big of an impact they had on the people who had them. They saved the peoples lives without even knowing it.
A short tour with Owen reveals why the Finegans bought the place Joes grandfathers and applied for Century Farm status from the Oregon Farm Bureau, which recognizes farms throughout the state that have been continuously farmed by the same family for at least 100 years. (See sidebar)
The Century Farm sits off Northwest Cornelius-Schefflin Road outside Cornelius.
Its been here for more than 100 years and we wanted to have it for our kids, Jennifer said. If they want to, we want to have opportunities for all of them.
Right now, Joe and and his brother, Ken, manage Finegan Farms Inc. field operations while Jennifer is the office manager. Joe and Jennifers oldest son, Thomas, 13, helps his dad in the fields. And while Joes father, Melvin, is technically retired, hes still active on the farm as well.
The Finegans farm holds about 2,000 acres, 1,000 of which they own. Their newly designated Century Farm accounts for only 72 of those acres, 50 of which are actively farmed. Their stead has grown quite a bit from the familys original 10 acres with a shack house and a few outbuildings.
Crops include nursery stock, grass seed, clover seed, sweet corn, wheat, green beans and more. The Finegans keep their crops diversified so theyre never counting on just one to make ends meet.
Its paid off. They had significant acreage invested in nursery stock for Glenn Walters Nursery, which went out of business. That blow came after the nursery market crashed after years as the front runner of Oregons most lucrative agricultural commodities.
Crop variety ensured the Finegans werent devastated and gave them enough bounce-back time to plant a lot of that acreage in other crops.
Unfortunately for Owen, though, Finegan Farms no longer rears animals. At one time, Joes grandparents, Henry and Irma, kept pigs, chickens and a small herd of dairy cows. Henry milked the cows twice a day in the blistering heat and freezing snow, and sent the milk to McMinnville to a company that later morphed into Darigold. Irma took eggs to the Forest Grove Creamery. The couple used the pigs for family meat and used to have a smokehouse.
They lived frugally, Jennifer said of her husbands grandparents. They didnt have a lot.
Henry liked farming, Jennifer said, but she thinks his favorite part was being with family and the closeness you develop through hard work to survive. Not everything is fun. Your relationships are built on hard work and daily struggles.
And working in such close quarters gave family members a chance to really know each other. Jennifers and Joes kids got to know their great grandfather Henry, for example, as others knew him. They still have his old truck and the rusty metal chair he nailed to an old stump, where they remember him sitting every day while he drank one beer after lunch in his striped coveralls.
Henry lived on the farm nearly his whole life until he was 89. At 91, he passed away.
At a ceremony at the Oregon State Fair in August, the Finegans will receive their coveted Century Farm sign, which theyll display near the road.
Its recognition of all the years of all the hard work, Jennifer said. I was hoping Henry would see this. Hes not here physically anymore, but Im sure he knows.
A family affair
Jennifer Finegan took it upon herself to trace her husbands family history and track down county property records. Heres the timeline she dug up to prove the familys consistent 100-year ownership and farming practices.
- In 1909, Theophile Cappoen moved to Oregon.
- Theophile married Julie and they had five children Celine, Pauline, Julianna, Marie and Jerome. They purchased the Century Farm property in 1915.
- Pauline married Rene Taghon and they had one son, Henry Taghon in 1916. Rene had little farming experience, as he was a butler in Belgium before he moved to Oregon. He learned quickly, though.
- Henry grew up on the farm. He married Irma in 1940. They had three children Marie, Louise and Remi.
- Marie married Melvin Finegan and they had six children, Joe and Ken among them.
- Joe Finegan married Jennifer and they had their children Thomas, 13, Everett, 11, Owen, 9, and Kara, 8.