Nearly a century after opening day, one of Paradise’s oldest businesses continues to reinvent itself. Heinke’s Family Farm, founded in 1925, survived the Depression, Recession, World War II, acid-wash jeans, the pandemic, and the Camp Fire, always finding new ways to do what they loved most: fruit.
The story starts with Carl Heinke, his mother Bertha, and his sister Martha, who started canning tomatoes and apples for local stores and bakeries in 1925. Two years later, Carl started a partnership with local businessman Mr. Weast, which they called “Heinke and Weast.” The Heinkes made the products: apple butter, apple jelly, Concord grape jelly, fig jam, canned figs and apple cider vinegar, and Mr. Weast sold the goods in his store.
After Mr. Weast passed away in 1944, Carl and his family took over the business, expanding into apple cider and Concord grape juice. Heinke’s farm also became the first commercial grower of kiwi fruit in California.
Today, the farm is owned by Terran Heinke, Carl’s great-grandson, who runs it with his wife, children, and up to 14 local seasonal workers. “We were relieved to discover that the vineyard had survived the fire,” said Terran. “Paradise is our home, and the Heinke Farm brings back fond memories for many of the long-time residents here. Reopening the Farm gives us an opportunity to share a taste of Paradise with locals and out-of-towners alike.”
While all their warehouse space, cold storage, shop, office, farm stand, outbuildings, tractors, and equipment were lost as a result of the fire, most of the vineyard, kiwis and orchard survived. The Heinkes continue to sell their organic Eastern Concord grapes nationwide but love the rebirth of the local business the most.
“Since the Camp Fire,” said Terran, “we’ve opened our farm up to the public in the fall, after the commercial harvest is over and host U-Pick weekends free of charge. We also produce kiwis, feijoas, and persimmons, which we sell on our farmstand at 5365 Clark Road. In recent years, we’ve expanded to include pumpkin patches and have an orchard with a variety of fruit trees.”
Heinke’s Family Farm also offers a variety of potted trees for purchase, including apple, nectarine, peach, cherry, pine, sycamore, and almond. In addition to growing fruit, Heinke’s also allows local residents to drop off their pine needles, leaves, and wood chips for free. Since the farm is organic, they use the leaves and pine needles in lieu of chemicals to keep weeds down and help provide nutrients to the plants.
Reopening the farm, while certainly a labor of love for the family, hasn’t been without its challenges. From restoring the vineyard, rebuilding the shops, replacing the parking, repairing the irrigation systems, it’s a monumental task–but one that’s worth it.
“It isn’t easy living up here, but this community is resilient and has become even more close-knit than it was before,” said Terran. “If you want to live in Paradise, you have to have a long-term vision. You have to be able to look past the burnt trees and empty lots. Look at the kids playing at Bille Park, the high-schoolers practicing on the football field, the friendly cashiers at the grocery stores. Look at the creativity as people rebuild. Our town has a lot of potential but it is going to take a lot of hard work, dedication and perseverance for it to come back.”
As Terran and his family dig into that hard work and dedication, they continue to reap the literal fruit of their labors.
“The Farm has been on the Ridge for so long that it has become an integral part of the community,” he noted. It’s been wonderful to see how happy folks are when they discover the farm is still here and we haven’t just given up, closed shop, and left town. We’re honored to continue to serve our community and to keep such a historical piece of Paradise still going.”
Equally rewarding for the Heinkes is their hope for the community and their desire to contribute to future generations of Paradisians. “We are excited that our children get to grow up on the Farm, get to go to school here, and get to develop grit as we rebuild,” said Terran. “We may not see the benefits in our lifetime, but our children and grandchildren will. We are creating a legacy here.”
Tip: Read more about the Heinke Family on the Yellowstone Kelly Trail!