Edible Monterey Bay

LOCAL HERO WINNER 2016 BEST FARM/FARMER: TOM BROZ/ LIVE EARTH FARM

A farm cultivates ties to its community
and the natural world, as well as its crops

tomBroz

Photography by Ted Holliday

Farmer Tom Broz and his wife, Constance, founded Live Earth Farm in 1995 on the belief that a farm is only as valuable as the community that surrounds it.

“The strength of the farm,” Broz says, “still for me today, is grounded in that relationship.”

It’s most certainly this desire to connect with and educate his community that has earned Broz a second win for Best Farmer through Edible Monterey Bay’s reader-selected Local Hero awards.

On a recent sunny day, throngs of children tromped through muddy fields, harvesting lemons to take into the kitchen and make lemonade. Herded by a fluffy white sheepdog, the group’s excited voices could be heard through the hills of the Green Valley of Watsonville where the farm grows 70 acres of organic fruits and vegetables.

These voices speak to the vibrancy of Live Earth, a farm that has grown over its 21-year history from a CSA of 15 local participants to today’s 600 members. Over the last decade, it has worked to further diversify its model to include farmers’ markets, direct-to-retail and its educational nonprofit Discovery Program that hosts about 1,000 kids each year.

For Broz and his crew, education is vital to Live Earth.

“I think where our story is unique is that we have a for-profit production farm and a nonprofit educational program. In as many ways as possible, we’re trying to create an environment where the farm is not just a food producing business but, also, a resource for the community to foster a connection with the land and the food that is being grown.”

Broz’s mission of cultivating a strong relationship with his community extends to the natural world and his desire to properly integrate his cultivated land with the native landscape. Partnering with the Wild Farm Alliance and Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Broz has installed native hedgerows all over the property. Visitors to the farm can collect a map and take themselves on a self-guided tour that illustrates the ways that Broz has worked to improve the wildlife habitat and protect natural resources.

“My passion has always been around growing food,” Broz explains. “But what kept us going as a farm is the personal relationships that come from growing that food—from my own immediate family to the larger community of people as well as the natural environment.”

Besides the Discovery Program, Live Earth opens to the public for Community Farm Days, u-pick events, farm dinners and workshops.

“If the community continues to wish to connect,” Broz believes, “I see the future of farm and food to be very positive.”

Runners up: 2nd place, Route 1 Farms and 3rd place, Serendipity Farms Rosie Parker is a Santa Cruz-based writer, farmer and beer lover. A native New Englander, she misses snow days but is happy she can now grow lettuce in the winter.

Live Earth Farm
172 Litchfield Lane, Watsonville
831.763.2448
liveearthfarm.net

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