Historic Hawes Farms in Anderson
● By Kayla Anderson
Down on the Farm
Story by Kayla Anderson
Photos by Kayla Anderson and Al LaVelle
DURING SPRINGTIME at Historic Hawes Farm in Anderson, baby chicks peep away in the farm store as the Hawes family takes calls, drives tractors and tries to get everything ready for the expected rains.
Out on the property, owner Greg Hawes points out pieces of large equipment, wheat fields, orchards, and the house where his ancestors used to live. It all started in 1863 when William Hawes ventured out west to Northern California to pursue gold mining and ended up managing the Anderson Hotel. During that time, he started accumulating land and having kids (he had a total of six children from three marriages).
Before William passed away, his son Jake took over the ranch and had five kids himself. The ranch eventually trickled down to his four remaining children to manage. One of them was Greg’s grandfather, and a century and a half later, Greg is now operating it. He hopes the farm will stay this way for years to come as his seven children grow up and start taking a bigger role in the family business.
However, agriculture is a tough industry, especially for a family-run farm. Years ago, there was a surge of life insurance companies buying up acres of ranches and hiring managers to farm them, changing the dynamic of what farming once was. However, for the Hawes family, there was never any other option for what they would do.
“I got indoctrinated when I was little. My dad loves growing vegetables and it was important for us to keep the legacy alive,” Greg says. After studying agriculture at Chico State University, Greg moved to Sacramento and became an accountant, but couldn’t stay away from the farm for too long.
“It just became a part of me. It’s hard to take the farm out of the boy,” he says.
Greg’s children help out with the farm often. For instance, his 14-year-old daughter Lily is raising a steer and several horses (and later joins her mother in the store) while older son Garrett is outside tending to the equipment.
In October, the Historic Hawes Farm comes to life as its 10 acres of cornfields transform into a giant maze that has taken on the features of Scooby Doo, Johnny Cash, Wounded Warriors and Greg’s parents, best visible by an aerial view. The farm soon became the place to be in October when the couple learned about agritourism and built features to support it.
“I grew pumpkins for all of the WinCo stores from Redding to San Diego, so for that whole month I was gone from my family,” Greg says. To remain close to home, in 2005 Greg built a pirate ship, the farm’s first corn maze, and invited all of Shasta County to come check it out. More than 5,000 people showed up, so the Hawes slowly started putting in more infrastructure and expanded its offerings. Now in the fall, Hawes Historic Farm transforms into a mini theme park of fun, with zombie paintball, zip lines, bumper cars, train rides and more.
“Kids from 5 years old to grandparents can enjoy everything here,” Greg says. “Kids really love participating in these activities with mom and dad,” he adds. During October, Hawes accommodates kids on field trips, families, and people who want to get scared in the haunted corn maze. Other features include a jumping pillow, a roller coaster, a playground, a wooden John Deere tractor set and a pizza farm (featuring everything in its purest form that it takes to make a pie, including where wheat and tomatoes come from to the chicken and dairy cows for cheese). Hawes hosts a gemstone mining trough, old Horsetown complete with a stagecoach, and a mini corn maze for the kids.
Greg loves to weld and build, constantly involved in little projects here and there to help improve the farm. In the last couple of years, he added in a go-kart track and gas-operated bumper cars.
“That was my favorite ride as a kid. And it’s unlimited – you can get back in line and do it until you fall asleep,” he says.
While the Hawes Farm fires up its entertainment in October, it is busy year-round growing 1,600 acres of wheat, walnuts, vegetables, alfalfa and more to support Northern California’s agriculture needs. Like its autumn activities, the fields require constant maintenance and to be successful you have to watch the weather at all times.
“Farming and agritainment are both so dependent on weather. In farming, it’s all about timing. We have to work around the rain,” Greg says.
Although it’s all a lot of work, members of the Hawes family wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Being a farmer’s wife, there’s never a dull moment, there’s always something going on,” says Greg’s significant other, Nikola. “But I love being part of this community and what the Hawes family does for it. Every year we try to support something different, give in the way of money and entertaining.”
“One hundred years ago, everyone was in agriculture; 98 percent of the people were farmers,” says Greg. “Nowadays the population is so far removed from agriculture, I just love to show what it’s like. I think it’s neat to keep it alive. We’re hard workers, we love to take care of the land and keep it for future generations.”
“Whether I’m building something for the farm or creating a new field, it’s pretty rewarding to see all of the little kids having fun with it. I love to see everyone having a great time,” Greg says. •
Historic Hawes Farm • 21923 Dersch Road, Anderson
Tickets, $13 to $25 • www.historichawesfarms.com