Spade & Plow Organics - Sam Thorp
Born from a desire to connect consumers to the best tasting organic fruit and vegetable varieties, and a calling to preserve farmland in the South Bay Community, Mike Thorp and his two sons, Nick and Sam started Spade & Plow Organics on 10 acres in San Martin.
Since its first harvest in 2015, the Thorp family has added nearly 30 acres to their operation, with a continued focus on community and sustainability. In addition to being certified organic by CCOF, Spade & Plow diligently practices regenerative farming techniques including strict crop rotation, high crop diversity to support beneficial insects, GMO-free production, and practices that support natural bee health in the area.
Please tell us who you are and a little bit about your farming operation?
My name is Sam Thorp with Spade & Plow Organics, I co-founded Spade & Plow with my father and brother, Mike and Nick Thorp, in 2015. We grow a high diversity of certified organic vegetables, fruits and flowers on over 40 acres in Santa Clara County. We pride ourselves on our top quality produce and connection to the local community. A majority of our sales are direct-to-consumer through local farmers markets and a home delivery CSA program.
How did you decide to get into the AG and Farming industry?
My family and I grew up in a farming family, my brother and I are fifth generation farmers. We've always had a love of farming and being able grow with the family felt like a natural fit. We all wanted to create a direct-to-consumer model and saw lots of potential in preserving farmland and serving residents in Santa Clara County.
I think it kind of comes naturally, which you see a lot of in family farms. I'm really proud of the work that myself, my brother and my dad have done and we all kind of bring a different perspective to the business. I focus on the sales, purchasing and marketing side, my brother has a lot of background and experience in post harvest and logistics, and my dad's been on the production side his whole life. We all kind of have our hands in every part of the business, but where we have these different specialties and we’re able to really help grow and find those efficiencies and carry the business forward.
Particularly on the Ag side of things, do you mind sharing a few things that you love about this industry?
I love how the industry comes with so many years of tradition, but at the same time is also very young. The industry is constantly evolving and there are always new opportunities..
There are so many great mentors and people that I look up to in the industry, across the board from from other growers, to their seed reps, to people in the fertilizer or compost realm, and even into sales and purchasing. they're just a lot of great inspiration I think across the board.
There's a lot of new people in the industry that want to grow with the industry and are constantly raising the bar, so being able to mentor that next generation is important as well. Especially going forward, where the industry is so young and so new, and especially in the certified organic realm. Certified organic has only been around for just 30 years or so, so, there's still so much change within the industry. It feels like almost anyone can come and kind of start a new product or a new way of looking at things or new way to marketing things, which is really exciting too as consumer trends are constantly changing.
How many acres are you overseeing these days? And what are the main crops you’re focused on?
We currently grow on about 40 acres. We grow over 150 different varieties in about 40 different categories. From the Oishii Nippon Project we’ve had a lot of success with the Shishimai and the Sweet Kabu, and hope to continue to grow their products.
We also grow a lot of artichokes - starting December through the springtime into May. Artichokes are a product that we've been able to find some distinction in the market by offering a slightly different season than the guys out on the coast can offer as we’re a bit more inland.
We grow quite a few tomatoes too. We do about a dozen different tomatoes every year, and are constantly shifting and changing and finding out which properties are better and trialing new heirloom varieties every year. Tomatoes are another product that we do well with and I have to say that's the one I probably have the most fun with because I get to try out all these new varieties every year.
What distinguishes Spade & Plow from other farms in the area?
We're growing in Santa Clara County, where we've seen a lot of farmland get eaten up by development over the past few decades. So, we're all about trying to preserve and show the value of farmland for the local community. A lot of our produce is sold solely in Santa Clara County, because we want to be a farm that residents here can be proud of and kind of call their own.
In the grand scheme of things, we're only growing on 40 acres, which doesn't make a huge difference. But being able to market ourselves and show that we can make this work, even if it's a small scale, and that farming is not dying and it’s viable and it's growing and it's exciting - being able to showcase that advertises to a generation of farmers that this is more than viable, it's growing.For more information about Spade & Plow Organics, their home delivery CSA program, wholesale produce, and more, visit www.spadeandplow.com.