Vegetable Manager Megan Gerde (left) and Naomi Thorpe (right) take a break from harvesting garlic on Thorpe's Organic Family Farm.
Naomi Thorpe is a second-generation farmer at Thorpe’s Organic Family Farm in East Aurora. We caught up with her earlier this summer to talk about her family’s enthusiasm for organic farming and to lend a hand with their garlic harvest.
For Thorpe, the business of farming entails much more than planting, weeding (“so much weeding!”) and harvesting. She works closely with vendors, including FreshFix, helps manage up to 40 workers and assists with the farm’s CSA membership.
While we walked down to the vast garlic field, Thorpe used her cell phone to proofread the latest newsletter her mother wrote for the farm’s CSA members.
Thorpe’s parents and first-generation farmers, Mike and Gayle, purchased the 2,300 acre farm on Route 78 about 40 years ago when it was the site of a gravel mine and dairy. The family also owns a citrus grove in central Florida which Thorpe says was a dream of her mothers. The Florida farm produces citrus fruit and melons, including the early watermelon we shared with FreshFix members in the spring. It also helps sustain local demand as crops are shipped home through the winter months while the East Aurora farmland is dormant.
Thorpe’s five siblings - Jeremiah, Abraham, Elijah, Abigail, and Hannah - also lend a hand on the certified organic farm. “Growing up we all helped but were encouraged to explore other career options. The farm was always my passion,” she said. The list of fruits and vegetables grown at Thorpes numbers in the hundreds and includes corn, greens, peppers, tomatoes and u-pick berries. They also grow grains such as organic oats, soybeans and hay for livestock. The farm is home to pigs, chickens and cows, as well as horses, goats and geese, which Thorpe said they keep around to appeal to young visitors. A farm store with produce, flour, coffee and sweet treats, like cookies, muffins and scones all baked on site, is open year round near the entrance.
The Thorpes converted the farm to all organic in the late 1990s when Gayle discovered she had an allergy to treated seeds. In order to achieve the certified organic distinction, they do not use any chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. In turn, this increases the soil's health allowing plants to thrive and produce food that is often more nutritionally dense than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
Naomi Thorpe may not fit the typical farmer stereotype. Some days she wears crocs while working the land or milking cows. Her work ethic though, which she learned from her parents - “My mom is still the hardest worker you’ll ever meet” – is one that will see Thorpes Farm thrive for generations to come.
“Seeing how much my parents loved farming inspired me to stay and work here,” Thorpe said. She added, “growing a healthy, beautiful product for customers keeps me coming back.”
For Thorpe, the farm's partnership with FreshFix has helped expand their reach. "It was a great decision on our part to work with FreshFix. We love that Joshua and his team are doing an amazing job getting healthy products to people who may not be able to make it all the way out to a local farm. Working with fresh fix has been a delight!"
As we climbed the hill to the parking lot, I turned back toward the fields of garlic and potatoes and spotted Thorpe on the tractor taking a phone call.
FreshFix Junior Marketing Manager and future farmer Kellan, age 7 .