It’s a slightly overcast day, and Fred Openshaw tills the soil, while Fred Openshaw plants the seeds. On the other side of the orchard, Fred Openshaw prunes the branches while Fred Openshaw observes the trade that he may one day continue.
Since the early 1900’s, Fred Openshaw Farms in Santaquin has been providing the community with fresh produce from its orchards, and as the intro suggests, has been a family tradition spanning four (and going on five) generations of Freds.
According to Fred 3, the farm has quite a history that began (in their family at least) with an act of service.
“It started when my great grandfather Eli Openshaw who was born and raised in Spring Lake, moved to Santaquin to be the town’s physician,” Fred 3 explained. “He bought a piece of land at the mouth of Santaquin Canyon land to plant trees on, and when he had patients who couldn’t pay off their medical debt, he’d have them work on the orchard to help with that.”
A neighbor recorded what it was like to be a recipient of this kind act to assist with medical debt, when Eli organized a group of community members to pay off debt by helping another in need. The following account was shared on the Fred Openshaw Farms’ Facebook account:
“My grandfather lost his farm in the Great Depression and had trouble providing for his young family,” the individual stated. “Finally, he was able to buy a small city lot. He moved his family into a tent on that lot and proceeded to plant a garden and orchard and made plans to construct a basement house. As the end of summer approached, he was worried about what his wife and children would do when cold weather came.
One day, Dr. Openshaw approached him and said, ‘Thomas, just about everybody in this town owes me money. When you get ready to dig your basement and pour the cement, let me know and I will make sure you have the help you need.’ On the appointed day, a large number of men came to work off their debts to Dr. Openshaw, completing the work in a very short time. So, thanks to Dr. Openshaw, my grandfather had a snug winter home for his family.”
While the orchard was very much a community endeavor, Eli made sure to pass on the trade to his son Alfred “Fred” Openshaw the first, who took over the farm in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Fred 1added hogs and chickens to the farm, selling eggs and poultry to Utah Poultry, which is now IFA Country Stores.
In the 1980’s Fred 2 took over the farm and began growing tart cherries, peaches, gala and red apples, but much like the originator of the farm, farming wasn’t his main job. Fred 2 was a superintendent at a nearby school district, while also serving on the National Guard.
Even with his busy schedule, Fred 2 managed to not only be a great farmer, but get to know his fruit by taste. In fact, according to the farm’s website, Fred 2 was known for picking the apples his customers asked for.
“He knew his trees so well that all the customer would need to do was tell him they wanted an apple with a certain taste and he could help the customer get just the right apple,” the website said.
The farm has been a longtime staple in the community, but according to Fred 3, it has never been a full-time job for any of the Freds.
“The farm has always been a side hustle,” Fred 3 said. “We have always employed local kids to help us, and it has also been something that we have done as a family.
Fred 3 not only carried on the farming tradition, but also became an educator and school administrator like his father. But when the time came for his only son Fred 4 to decide what he wanted to do, the answer was as clear as the name on his birth certificate: He wanted to run the farm.
Unlike those who came before him, however, Fred 5 decided that he would make farming a full time endeavor.
“I loved working on the farm growing up, and knew that this is what I wanted to do. I’ve always been excited to be on the farm,” Fred 5 said. “In 2017, I graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and business, and then in 2020 with a master’s degree in agriculture economics.”
Today the farm sells direct to consumer its tart cherries, red delicious apples, nectarines, plutos, gala and honey crisp apples. Openshaw farms sells at farmers markets all around the state, including down in St. George. There is even a U-pick option that consumers can take advantage of.
For now, the focus is on taking care of the orchard and harvesting the cherries that will be making their appearance in early June. The Openshaws said that they are actively looking for teens in need of summer jobs, and asked teens to apply at the farm and help with the fruit stands – where they very well might see 2-year-old Fred V handing out fruit and learning from his predecessors.
“We’re not just about growing our product; we’re about growing our children,” Fred III said.
For more information on Fred Openshaw Farms, and where to support them, go to www.produceplusyou.com.