Q & A with farmer Thaddeus Barsotti

Thaddeus Barsotti was born in 1980 on the family farm in Capay. Thaddeus also spent many hours working on the farm, in what was then an enterprise just beginning to show signs of promise. He showed early proficiency in the machine shop and is responsible for designing some of the tools used today on the farm. In 2002 Thaddeus took a year away from college to manage the farm’s new project, the opening of the Capay Organic store in the San Francisco Ferry Building. Thaddeus graduated with a degree in Agriculture Engineering from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and in 2003 he returned to San Francisco to continue running the store in the Ferry Building and pursued part-time his interest in cuisine at chef school. In 2004 Thaddeus returned to the farm as farm manager where he is active growing and maintaining over 40 different fruit and vegetable crops. He is also editor of the weekly farm news, which many Farm Fresh To You customers look forward to reading each week. In 2007 he married his wife, Moyra. Thaddeus and Moyra welcomed their first child, Lola Ché, on January 1, 2010.

FFTY owners close up

Q. You grew up on a farm, so what do you make of this “farm-to-fork” movement?

A. This is really the dream of my parents who started farming in 1976 in Yolo County. They wanted to farm organically and sell directly to consumers and have people appreciate how their food was grown. I am sure that people like them who started the farm-to-fork movement are gratified to see how many communities have local farmers markets and how many restaurants are using ingredients from local farms.

Q. Why is the farm-to-fork movement important?

A. It’s important for many reasons. Supporting local farms puts money and jobs into your local economy. I am able to employ most of the harvest workers on my farm year-round, and so they are able to make a life in our community.  It’s important for conservation reasons – many local farms like Capay Organic are sustainable, and as such, they are stewards for the local land and the environment.  By supporting local farms, consumers are also able to reduce the environmental impact from transporting foods long distances.

Q. What are some of your memories growing up in a farm family?

A. We all worked together for “the cause.” From packing turnips in our living room to early-morning trips to San Francisco to sell at farmers markets there. I also was one of the youngest salesman at the Davis Farmers Market, which my parents co-founded with two other farm families. We worked very hard, but we really enjoyed selling our product to consumers, experimenting with new crops and working on engineering projects to improve farm equipment.

kids working market

Q. What was that like selling at farmers markets in the early days?

A. People were just getting used to the idea of knowing how their food was grown. Consumers had become a bit removed from the agriculture process and then started realizing about the effects of pesticides. Back then, people didn’t know what “organic” was and used to say “of course, it’s organic; it’s organic matter.”

Q. What do you see as the future of the farm-to-fork movement?

A. I think it’s all about access and being connected to the land that grows your food. We are thrilled that many restaurants are buying from local farms, but we would like to encourage the food system to change such that your local burger joint buys their lettuce from a farm and your neighborhood taco stand gets tomatoes from a local farm and there is a transparent food system where consumers visit the land where their food is grown.

We run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program called Farm Fresh To You where we deliver produce to homes, and we are also working with schools to provide fresh produce to cafeterias. We also partner with local food banks. So, I am very much in favor of a broad definition of “fork” in the farm to fork movement.