Jerry and Jean Thomas of Thomas Farm are well known at the MBCFM markets for their organically grown flowers, veggies and fruit, and also because they helped establish the Aptos market over 35 years ago. The Ecological Farming Association recently honored the Thomases with the coveted Stewards of Sustainable Agriculture award, also known as a “Sustie.”
The Sustie award recognizes their considerable contribution to the establishment and promotion of organic farming in California that began when they decided to flee the traffic of Los Angeles in search of a better life. It was the early 1970s and the organic food scene was hardly a blip on anyone’s radar when the Jerry and Jean found a small home on 5 acres on Happy Valley Road near Corralitos. The property already had an apple orchard on it, so they decided to settle in and began growing flowers and vegetables. Jerry learned to garden from his mother, and the only organic reference literature available at the time was the Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.
In those days there wasn’t much in the way of organic verification procedures other than Rodale’s Organic Certification Program. In 1973, a group of 54 California Farmers, including the Thomases, decided to form their own organic certification system and established the California Certified Organic Farmers, or CCOF. The standards set forth by the CCOF helped form the USDA’s Nation Organic Program, (NOP). Today the CCOF is the largest NOP certifier in the country with over 2,300 farmers and businesses in their program.
And the Beet Goes On …
The roots of the family business took hold when Josh Thomas and his wife Kari began running the farm on a fulltime basis after his parents retired. Josh had been working on the farm from an early age, and as soon as he was old enough to drive he began selling at farmers markets in the area. Josh and Kari’s four children help out as well. Thomas Farms sells the farm’s bounty to a number of farmers markets, grocery stores as well as various CSAs that serve the Monterey Bay community.
Photograph courtesy of Thomas Farm.