Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Vernon Peterson
Farmer and Founder of Abundant Harvest Organics

Category
Location
Kingsburg, California
Farm Credit Affiliation
Golden State Farm Credit
Vernon's Perspective

Vernon Peterson’s family has been farming stone fruit, grapes and chickens on the family farm since 1893, something he calls “more a testament to tenacity than brilliance.”

Vernon himself took over the family operation at just 21 when his father passed away. He also took on the farm’s significant debt, a result of his father working to build the operation with his three sons in mind. The lesson Vernon took from his experience is that each generation must redefine itself if they hope to pass a viable enterprise to the next.

During his early years managing the family’s orchard and farm, Vernon recognized that the traditional approach to being a small producer wasn’t working. He eventually took a job managing a large nearby operation, but never gave up on his own enterprise. In 1989, he stretched a $50 tarp between four power poles he’d raised and started packing his own fruit. This turned into an entrepreneurial opportunity, and that winter, three neighbors asked if he’d pack their fruit, too. By 2000, with the help of Farm Credit, he’d built the farm into a service company. Today, his state-of-the-art commercial packing operation handles pomegranates, citrus and stone fruit for twelve nearby farms.

Again recognizing the need for change, Vernon undertook the three-year process of becoming certified as an organic farm. Before receiving his certification in 2002, he followed organic processes but was only able to sell it as conventional fruit, demonstrating one of the challenges of undertaking such a transition. Other farmers nearby joined him and he shared his experiences to help them create profitable organic fruit and vegetable farms.

“I love helping people achieve their goals, whether that’s eating healthy, or buying their own farm,” Vernon says.

In 2007, Vernon decided to bring his produce, and that of other local farmers, straight to the consumer. He launched Abundant Harvest Organics, a web-based farm delivery service, with 50 subscribers in three communities. Today, he counts more than 5,000 customers in 150 California communities as his customers. He’s still innovating, and this year added a commercial kitchen so customers can request certified organic lasagna, apple pie and other products in their orders.

“All of us together can do a whole lot more than all of separately,” he says. “Honest people working together throughout the food chain can do anything.”

To Vernon, the best part of his agricultural operation is that both his children and one of their spouses are involved. He hopes to be around long enough to watch how they choose to redefine the farm when it’s their turn to take the reins.

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