A Farm Business for All Seasons

Farmer and businessman Greg Hawes has one of the most diverse operations you’ll see—and the largest fleet of Massey Ferguson and AGCO equipment in his county.

By Jamie Cole | Photos By Jamie Cole

On Saturdays in October at Historic Hawes Farms, it’s nothing to see two or three thousand people lined up to enjoy carnival rides, to explore a corn maze, to pick a pumpkin, or even to shoot zombies with paintballs in a corn field. “You can do a little bit of everything here,” says proprietor Greg Hawes of his Anderson, California, venue. But tonight is different. Approaching Hawes Farms from Redding on the highway, Greg has the only lights on for miles in either direction. A wind storm is already whipping up and making its way toward his place, and though patrons are safe, it will soon be time to close for the night, and the weekend, and maybe longer.

In the wee hours of the morning, a swirl of wind and dust that can only be described as Biblical will sand-blast the little town of Anderson.

Still, those lights were on, and that’s no surprise. Greg Hawes is nothing if not resourceful. This seasonal “agri-tainment” operation is just a part of a generational family business that not only has a long history in this part of the state, but also serves its farms and farm families.

“We’re predominantly farmers,” Greg says. He’s growing 1,500 acres of wheat, barley and oats for a three-way hay mix that goes into small square bales for the horse market. There are two feed stores, one on the property at Hawes Farms and one just to the south in Red Bluff. His trucking business is contracted with a cogen plant to load fly ash, the byproduct of wood chips burned for electricity, and apply it directly to his fields. He grew his first hemp acres last year and expanded that operation this year.

While Greg grew up in farming, his first professional work was in accounting. “I can look at a set of financials and know what they mean, and that definitely helps,” he says. “It’s been the best thing that I’ve done.”

Running numbers gives him a clearer idea of the need for efficiency, especially in an operation that is so diverse. For instance, Greg says he has “worked really hard to be the premier supplier for people that want nice hay for their horses,” but at first his equipment didn’t measure up.

The horse hay market is notoriously picky, and while Greg has always grown for quality, he wanted a better bale. He also wanted to spend less time in the fields. He went from eight of his old balers to four Massey Ferguson 1844S models, “and wow, what a difference,” he says. “I got done faster than with all eight” of the other brand. “The flakes flake off easily. My customers are loving that part… Same hay, just in a nicer package.”

Switching to the Massey Ferguson 1844S small square balers… (scroll/swipe right) …made a nicer hay package for Hawes’ horse customers.

His acumen extends to the other businesses in the family. The first Hawes feed store opened in 1977, in a barn that was built on this land in 1914. Greg opened the second location in 1994 because “I could see the economies of scale,” he says, doubling the inventory and buying inventory together.

He has just hired a dispatcher for the growing trucking business, and reminds that a dense, consistent hay bale helps with loading and transport of his number one commodity. It adds up when you’re moving 5,000 tons of hay a year, aside from the 1,000-plus loads of fly ash.

Hemp is the newest business in the enterprise, and a six-acre trial last year was lucrative enough to encourage expansion to 400 acres. “It’s for the CBD oil to help for aches and pains,” he says. “If hemp can have some good uses for health, I’m all for it.”

Then there’s the agri-tainment business, which started as Greg growing pumpkins for a grocery store chain in 2005. Greg believed that instead of having a labor force out picking pumpkins for a contract, that the public would come to him and do it themselves, for fun. He was right. The Redding area is home to about 200,000 people, and 30,000 of them visit Hawes Farms every year, along with 9,000 kids on school field trips. “Whether you’re five or 85,” he says, “there’s something for everyone.”

By Sunday morning after the wind storm, Hawes has lost power as well, and is working with his team to make sure the public knows he will keep Hawes Farms open for additional time this season to make sure schoolkids can still pick pumpkins and families can enjoy the festivities. Meanwhile, it’s back to work for the other businesses in the Hawes enterprise.

The agritourism business… (scroll/swipe right) …is one aspect of Hawes Farms that he hopes to keep in the family.

“I guess I just have it in me to create and build,” says Greg, crediting his father for his work ethic. He and his wife Nikola have seven kids between them, and Greg hopes to pass the businesses down to them. They’d be the sixth generation of family farming this land. “(I’m hoping) that each one of them will want to grab one of those and just run with it,” he says. “So I guess that’s my long-range plan, and just having fun along the way.”

See Hawes Farms’ equipment lineup >>