It all started with a coop full of chickens and a bunch of eggs. At least, that’s how the story has been told time and time again by the young entrepreneur team of SONS Farm Fresh, a produce company owned and operated out of Oakdale.
While the farm stand/produce business is hardly new hat in the 209 agricultural community, the eight hands and four faces behind this local business are most definitely atypical. Owned and operated by the “SONS”: Madison, Jackson, Allison and Hudson Ruvalcaba, the members of this sibling team range in age from 21 to 14.
Now entering their fourth season in the farming business, the young family team shared the endeavor began quite simply during the summer of 2018. At the time the quartet were 18, 16, 13 and 11 years of age with a bounty full of farm fresh eggs.
Eating eggs daily as a family, they were unable to keep up with consumption of the eight to nine dozen yielded daily by their chickens. Solution? Simple. Offer them for sale via social media.
“Eight or nine dozen sold within minutes,” Jackson said of the sale of those initial eggs back in 2018. “It just went crazy.”
Excited by the success, the four siblings inquired if they could expand what they were selling and offer honey and almonds as well. Parents Amy and Cesar shared they encouraged their children, as well as guided them, but the work and labor would 100 percent fall on the shoulders of the four kids.
Now as they ramp up into the fourth season, that simple offering has morphed into 10 acres of their 75-acre family farm being dedicated to the growth and cultivation of over 40,000 plants. The remaining 65 acres, eldest “Son” Madison shared still yields almonds.
“This year (we) planted over 40,000 plants in total,” Madison shared. “We’ve really expanded with just our crops.”
The family maintains a permanent farm stand location, in the city’s east end at 1936 E. F St., Oakdale, just past the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds. Traditionally opened by mid- to late-May, this year the foursome will be expanding their exposure by also branching out to local Farmer’s Markets.
“This is the first season we’re doing farmer’s markets and pop-ups,” Madison stated, noting their plans to be in Ripon, Riverbank and the Oakdale farmer’s markets.
What were once four eager farming kids simply motivated to make some money from the family farm, are now savvy business owners each with their own “niche” within the family business.
“In the beginning I learned a lot. I had no clue what to garden, how to garden and I was pretty shy,” Allison, now 16, noted of the early days when she was just 13 years of age. “I couldn’t really talk to adults that well. Now I’ve gotten into some really special connections, it’s been really special to me in the way I’ve grown in confidence.”
The third-born child out of the four, Allison is also the lead in charge of managing product as well as personnel for the base farm stand and the farmer’s markets.
“We had no idea how much work it takes to farm and garden everything,” Madison shared of what they’ve learned the most since first beginning in the summer of 2018. “From sunrise to sundown we are working.”
If they’re not in field doing manual labor, they can be found working on administrative tasks, as well as marketing.
“But it’s definitely worth it,” Madison said.
The family farms a large variety of fruits and vegetables, all grown fresh on their Oakdale farm.
“Once we seed thousands of seeds, we store them in our greenhouse until they are ready for planting,” Madison shared of the year-round process. “When it comes to our fruit trees, we have to make sure that they are getting the correct amount of water. Once we start getting fruit, that’s when we begin thinning our fruit trees.”
While planting and thinning begin in the off season, harvesting of the crops begins in May and traditionally has wrapped by early fall … that is, until now. 8
A recent graduate from Master’s University, Madison has made the decision to become a full-time farmer with the family business.
“I think the main thing is just being able to provide for our community, I’ve always loved giving and helping out others,” Madison said of her change in career path. “Just being able to provide fresh produce makes other people happy, so it makes me helpful as well.”
In addition to making the transition of working the family farm full time, Madison is also excited to extend the season for the SONS Farm Fresh, beginning with a pumpkin patch this fall.
“Once I get Halloween down, my goal is to eventually be open for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well,” she said, noting the added research of farming late season crops which will be a new endeavor for the family.
“I’m so blown away by this,” mom Amy said of her four children and their continued dedication to SONS Farm Fresh. “They’re just doing it all on their own. I have not witnessed one meltdown or argument between them. They just really enjoy it.”
“I’m really proud of them,” Amy continued. “That they took the initiative and wanted to do something like this. That they’d spend their whole summer at the fruit stand working. I just feel really blessed. I’m really happy for them.”
For additional information or to see the latest comings and goings of the “SONS” they can be found on social media at Sons Farm Fresh or on their website at www.sonsfarmfresh.com.