Road 20 Farm
Los Angeles native Tom Willey and his wife Denesse settled on 75 acres of rich farmland in the San Joaquin Valley in 1980 and established T&D Willey Farms, which has now been certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers since 1987. Some of team that Tom and Denesse cultivated have been working with them for decades, learning how to nourish the plants with vitamins, prevent pests, and package the produce like the gift it is. But as retirement age approached, the Willeys knew they wanted to pass on not just what they’d learned, but their vision for community-based agriculture; enter Food Commons.
Food Commons Fresno is a hub for small-scale organic farmers and artisan producers, serving as an aggregator and distributor that facilitates a community-owned food system that can compete with larger agricultural conglomerates for individual and wholesale orders. In 2015, the Willeys sold their CSA business to Food Commons Fresno, and in 2016 Food Commons took over the long-term lease for their farmland and rebranded the operation Road 20 Farm. Tom and Denesse work in an advisory role with the new farm management, and many of their original crew have been hired by Road 20, proudly continuing the T&D Willey tradition.
Today, Road 20 Farm bustles with people working to harvest, wash, package, and ship the roughly 50 different vegetable crops that the farm grows on a 12-month farming cycle. Farm manager Rick Ambrose was impressed by T&D Willey when he was on the sales side, working for an organic grocer. “One of the first meetings that I had, I said, ‘You guys are the best of the best. It’s your farm, so do it your way, and I’m here to back you up,’” Ambrose said in an interview, “I’ve been proud of them every day. I've learned from them. They have become more of a team, and they help each other out.”
Photos © Road 20 Farm/Food Commons Fresno, Caught In The Drift