Long before farms got attention on restaurant menus, “Shepherds Greens” were a staple at top-shelf eateries across the region, a testament to the impact of farmer Tom Shepherd. Since 1973, the fifth-generation Santa Barbara native, who was one of the original vendors at the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market, has been sowing fields from Carpinteria to the Santa Ynez Valley, elevating the role of small farms in everyday diets and inspiring many others, including his own children, to do the same.
For the past year-and-a-half, however, Shepherd has battled an aggressive form of bladder cancer. He just learned that the fight will require a transplant, and his supporters are asking the community to help keep Shepherd’s farms alive.
“Right now he should be aggressively preparing for the summer season — tilling, bedding up rows, and planting,” explains the Go Fund Me page set up by his daughter, Katie Lesh. “But instead, he will be in ‘n’ out of doctors’ appointments at USC, will have an extended hospital stay, and be on bed rest for weeks of recovery. Tom does everything himself in his business and needs our help!”
Currently, Shepherd is farming 15 acres of land near the Folded Hills Winery at the bottom of the Nojoqui Grade in Gaviota. The funds raised will aim to cover the next four months of his personal and business expenses, including the employment of a full-time farmer, wages for those who work the farmers markets, and much more.
“Tom has grown so much food for our community,” explains the page. “It’s our turn to show him how much we care!”