published on December 20, 2016 - 1:47 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Tom and Denesse Willey, local organic farming pioneers, have announced their retirement with plans to transition their 75-acre farm to another pioneering organization.


Food Commons Fresno has struck a long-term lease agreement to operate T&D Willey Farm in Madera, which has been farmed since 1980 and was certified organic in 1987.

Food Commons Fresno is a grassroots organization to promote a local food system to underserved areas. It’s “Ooooby” (Out of Our Own Backyards) service delivers fresh fruit and produce via a subscription model, while the organization is also developing a retail, kitchen and distribution facility in Southwest Fresno. Food Commons Fresno is also a wholesaler supplying local eateries, and partners with other community organizations to promote healthy eating.

“This is a major milestone for us in building out a full farm-to-fork model,” wrote Kiel Schmidt, Food Commons Fresno development and wholesale manager, in an email. “This is also a monumental win for keeping this land in diversified organic production, carrying on the Willeys’ legacy.”

The transfer may also highlight an alternative for local growers as they age out of the industry and figure out a succession plan.

“Over the next two decades our country will see an unprecedented, large-scale transfer of farmland and the Food Commons wants to play a role in preserving the high community and ecological values these farms embody,” stated Jim Cochran, Food Commons Fresno president. “Food Commons Fresno is honored to support the Willey Farm succession and maintain their farm in certified organic production.”

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