In mid-summer, peach lovers line up well before the 8 a.m. bell at Sandy Creek Farm’s booth on Saturdays. Farming since 1992, Ronda and Randy Thiessen now grow 28 varieties of peaches on their 89-acre orchard in Franklin.
The couple took a hiatus from the Columbia Farmers Market between 2004 and 2007 in order to sell at a smaller market, but they returned to the Columbia market in 2008. “We were able to produce more fruit than we could sell,” Ronda said.
Ronda and Randy are in charge of all the growing, picking, and processing at Sandy Creek Farm. Aside from peaches—their most bountiful crop—the couple also cultivates sweet and tart cherries, apricots, mulberries, blueberries, pears, raspberries, pecans, and apples.
They grow 19 varieties of apples, so their apple-picking season spans from late June through mid-September. Together, they walk their orchard daily, tasting each apple variety “to be sure they are ready to pick,” Ronda said. “We eat more than an apple a day.” The two “like the fact that we can work together and be outside regularly as part of our job, while also providing excellent quality products to our neighbors” at the market, she said.
None of the Sandy Creek’s fruit goes to waste, she added. Ronda makes applesauce, cider, and dried apples with the fruit they don’t sell. Any overly ripe apples go to the local wildlife. “We also freeze cherries, blueberries, raspberries, pecans, and peaches for our own winter use.”
At the most recent winter market, the couple sold three types of pecans: Colby, Kanza, and a Missouri-native pecan. Ronda also began selling her homemade craft items, after she recently took up sewing and quilting. “Randy bought me a new sewing machine. I love it.”
On Saturdays, in summer and in the winter, the market has become where they socialize with their regular customers, the other vendors, and the couple’s three grandchildren, who “enjoy helping at the market whenever they can,” Ronda said.
Ronda shared two of her favorite recipes for apples and pecans.