Tom Shepherd of Shepherd Farms

Rachel Hommel

Tom Shepherd of Shepherd Farms

Tom Shepherd of Shepherd Farms

Organic Pioneer Inspires Youth and the Local Farming Movement

Name: Tom Shepherd

Farm: Shepherd Farms

Location: 6701 Casitas Pass, Carpinteria, CA 93013

What they grow: Over 55 varieties of certified organic produce including broccoli, cauliflower, heirloom tomatoes, kale, leeks, artichokes, peas, tomatillos, arugula, chard, cabbage, fava beans, jalapeños, elephant garlic, and other farm-fresh produce.

Where to buy: Farmers markets including Tuesday in downtown Santa Barbara, Thursday in Goleta, Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara, and Sunday in Goleta. Shepherd Farms also has a very popular CSA, which entitles members to farm visits, harvest celebrations, and other gatherings on the farm. His produce has been featured on the menus of more than 25 restaurants, including Downey’s, bouchon, Blue Agave, Pascucci’s, and Sojourner Café.

In season now: Sweet ambrosia cantaloupe, eggplant, butternut squash, Persian cucumbers, pumpkins, organic tri-colored peppers, spaghetti squash, zucchini, spinach, and various root crops. In the near future, Shepherd hopes to partner with a brewery, growing his own hops and malted barley for beer production. Additionally, the farm has started growing wheat crops, with hopes to also partner with local bread purveyors.

Their story: A fifth-generation Santa Barbara resident, Tom Shepherd has been farming organically in the area since 1973. One of the earliest members of the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association, Shepherd has committed himself to inspiring children, families, and schools to grow their own gardens and eat locally. Recently, Shepherd and his wife, Susan, even published A Handbook for Citizen Farmers, an illustrated book that helps tell the story of growing your own garden.

“The handbook was a project I worked on with my wife during a road trip,” said Shepherd. “We wanted to teach children from a young age the joys of farming and gardening. The response has been very encouraging.”

Committed to education, Shepherd Farms frequently offers farm tours and other experiential learning opportunities. With opportunities to volunteer on the farm, Shepherd Farms has become a local institution for sustainable agriculture.

“There is definitely magic in growing your own food,” said Shepherd. “We have several kids that work weekly on the farm with their parents. It is a great experience, and it feels wonderful to furnish this space for young people to learn.”

Farming alongside the Yule Lake, Shepherd’s 40-acre farm sits on some of the richest soil in the Carpinteria Valley. While busy working the farm, maintaining his produce stand, and building a strong CSA membership, Shepherd will always make time for farmers markets, his first passion.

“I love working the markets and seeing the locals,” said Shepherd. “It’s fun talking to people and preaching about organics!”

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