Since 1904, the Thoenen family has farmed on 300 acres of land in Frankenstein, Missouri. About 100 acres are planted in mainly milo, soybeans, and alfalfa. The farm also includes 40-head of cattle. Over the past 15 years, Randy and Laura Thoenen—with his parents, Fred and Theresa—have also sold melons at the Columbia Farmers Market to help fund a college education for their four sons, Nathan, Seth, Jared, and Noah, as well as for their nephew, Dustin. When they were younger, all the boys helped sell at the market, Randy said.
Jared and Noah expanded the production eight years ago, when Jared, now 21, and Noah, now 19, became the managers and owners of Thoenen Produce. They exchanged labor on the farm for 10 acres of their grandparents’ land, so that they could grow more produce for the Columbia Farmers Market.
“We got them involved growing veggies from the time they could walk,” Randy said. “They are still very ambitious, and they are going great guns” with this project. “I don’t think they will ever quit.”
The brothers cultivate six acres of sweet corn, and grow a variety of field–grown vegetables on the other four acres. Over the past five years, they built three greenhouses for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, which enabled the Thoenens to bring produce to the farmers market as early as April 1.
In addition to their work for the farm, the two brothers study engineering at the University of Missouri. Jared is a junior, and Noah is a sophomore.
The experience of selling at the market has given the family a sense of a much broader community. “The market brings a lot of folks to one place at one time,” Randy said. “And it provides us with a good income for the time we spend there. We also love the people who come to market, and we feel that if we treat them fairly they will keep coming back.”
Laura Thoenen shared this pressure cooker recipe for her hot salsa.