Jeff and Dianne White

A Family Transformed by Farming

jw3Jeff and Dianne White started hearing the call of the country from their comfortable city home about fifteen years ago. In some ways, it was no surprise. They weren’t far from it; after all, the city of Hanford in the heart of the Central Valley was surrounded by farms and ranches, and life on the farm would be an obvious fit for the expression of their strong value for family and stewardship.

Jeff, an optometrist, admits that jumping into something so foreign was a bit intimidating, but the benefits, he said, outweighed the risks and beginning a part-time career that the whole family could participate in together had a convincing pull.

The farm would provide a cheerful training ground for building a strong work ethic for the children, and not to mention, the country also seemed to provide a playground that changed with the seasons: the river, canoeing, jet-skiing, and the great outdoors combined to form the cherry on top of the transition from the city to the farm.

 Speaking of cherries, there are plenty of them dotting the rows of trees on the forty acres of organic stone fruit the Whites collectively farm, endearingly named the White River Ranch.

Jeff was happy to find neighborly help and family guidance to be two resources he had immediately at his disposal during the White’s first growing season. He found a mentor in farm management in AHO grower and neighbor Ryan Palm, who assisted in getting the Whites off the ground in their new venture practically. And as far as what to grow—that was up to the kids.

 “When our kids were young, they loved plums, so we thought, why not grow them?” Jeff recalled about their first season.

jw1“For us, farming is a family affair. My kids helped in tractoring, suckering, and watering, when they were younger. Out of necessity, our kids have worked hard, but it’s been a bonding experience and one that has shaped us into an appreciative family; we know the difficult work farming requires, and are able to appreciate how hard our farm laborers work for us,” Jeff said.

For the Whites, family togetherness and unity was a given, but the transition to growing organically was a process, and transformation of lifestyle came in tow.

In 2002, Jeff was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He has thankfully recovered and had no recurrence of cancer since his treatments.

“Naturally, I wanted to reduce my exposure to chemicals and toxins as much as possible,” he said. “We see organic farming as a way of life. Optimal health for our children, organic foods, and better nutrition is where it begins. We want our children to benefit from the organic lifestyle, and we want our consumers to share in this benefit as well.”

jw2And the cherry on top? Jeff flashes a quick smile and reports that the wildlife sightings on the ranch since they transitioned to organic growing have shot through the roof. “Quail, dove, squirrels, raccoons, possum, coyotes, and at night the barn owls are doing their jobs in keeping the mice and gopher population under control,” he said.

As a first generation farmer in the nation’s richest farmland, Jeff and Dianne look forward to making their family’s relatively new farming lifestyle, and everything that comes with it—nutrition, values, nature, and fun—available to future generations, and specifically, their one-day grandchildren.

“I want this place to become a generational farm. I hope one day our grandkids say, ‘Please, please, let’s go out to Grandpa’s! Let’s ride the blue tractor, get in the canoes, let’s have fun!’ I want to be that grandpa,” he said.

That would surely be the cherry on top of what has already been a transformational experience for the Jeff, Dianne, Jonathan, Matt, and Noell.

The White family’s stone fruit makes an appearance seasonally in your AHO subscription boxes.