Bruce and Helle Ruddenklau own and operate Ruddenklau Farms in the Willamette Valley. Bruce grew up on a 3rd generation sheep and grain farm in his home country of New Zealand, while Helle grew up in Denmark. They met at Lincoln University which Helle attended on exchange. Bruce was so taken with Helle that he applied for an internship at OSU and packed his bags for America.
In 1991, with a loan from family, they started Ruddenklau Farms in Amity, Oregon. They began with crops that had solid histories in the Willamette Valley and that they were familiar with, such as clover and wheat. Since beginning their operation, the Ruddenklaus have largely diversified their crop base and have grown sugar beets, radish, peas, bush beans, grass seed, and sweet corn amongst other crops. In the early 1990s, Ruddenklau farms began growing meadowfoam for a small company out of Iowa called Ag Alternatives as a method of crop rotation.
Ruddenklau Farms joined OMG (formerly Oregon Meadowfoam Growers Association) in 1997 and currently grow meadowfoam on approximately 3-5% of their land each season. Much of the seed market is commoditized, but the cooperative nature of OMG allows them to contract for a stable price, otherwise a luxury in the wide-swinging seed market. Bruce says he particularly enjoys growing meadowfoam because it is a fun, interesting “tool in the tool chest” of crop rotation and Helle enjoys the sheer beauty of a blossoming field and the lovely aroma the flowers exude.
Looking into the future, they are excited about the possibilities for growth in the meadowfoam seed oil and daikon radish oil markets, and look forward to growing more specialty oil crops when demand dictates.
Pictured:Bruce and Helle Ruddenklau stand in their front yard.