Tom Nunes

"My father has said, "The most important ingredient that you can put in a crop is your shadow." You have to be there everyday. You can be the smartest guy in the world but if you're not there everyday, you're going to miss something. You have to be there - if even to make the decision to say or do nothing."

Name: Thomas Marten Nunes, aka T5, as he is the 5th Tom Nunes

AGE: 38

HOME TOWN: Salinas, CA

Currently Lives: Salinas

FARM NAME & LOCATION: Nunes Vegetables, based out of Salinas, CA


FAVORITES:

Music: Country • Food: Steak • Drinks: Water – on my mind all the time • Blue Jeans: Wrangler • Thing to do AFTER work: Spend time with your family • Mantra: Farming isn’t my job, it’s a lifestyle …

What's your relationship status?

Married Do you have children? Do they work on the farm with you?

3 kids: an 8 y.o. boy Tom aka T6, daughter Kate, 7, and Trey, 4

On weekends they come out to the ranch, when they’re not in school. They travel with me to our Arizona farm and spend their Christmas and winter break(s) down there. It’s a family affair – they’ve been everywhere with us.

Where is the farthest you have traveled to? Where would you like to go?

Greek Islands …. Australia or New Zealand ….

What is your attitude about money?

I don’t think about it. I think if you wake up everyday and think about doing your job at the best of your ability and enjoying the people you work with and for, then everything falls into place. If you’re passionate about what you do and you really enjoy it, those things just kind of happen. If you get too consumed about it, based on money, you lose sight of what you’re trying to do.

In business you make decisions based on fundamental decisions, good business practices, but money doesn’t rule your decisions.

In business you make decisions based on fundamental decisions, good business practices, but money doesn’t rule your decisions. It could cloud what you’re trying to do, if you allow it to. You have to be focused on what the consumer wants, what’s good for your ground, the environment, the people that you work with and work for. If all those things are working in unison, then good things happen.

How did you get into farming?

Where the farming really started was with T2, my great-grandfather. Tom 2 started farming sugar beans in the ‘30s. Grew up poor with a 3rd grade education, and it was a small farm in the middle of the valley. His two boys T3, my grandfather, and his brother Bob were educated and went to Stanford. Both have, and continue to this day, to work tirelessly throughout their entire lives to create a family-owned and operated company that stretches across the Western US. And we ship throughout the world. They’re both alive! Good-looking men, too. My grandfather is 86, and Bob is 83. Come to the office everyday!

How many acres is the farm?

We farm over 20,000 acres of organic and conventional products in the Western part of the US – Arizona, California and Nevada.

What was the HARDEST part getting started?

I went to college at Cornell and played college football there. I really thought I had tremendous understanding of what hard work and commitment is; and yet the most impressive thing that I found when I started working for the family business was how hard the generations above me had worked – and still how hard they work. I really saw what hard work, and dedication, and determination looks like. That was one of the most impressive things I saw coming out of Cornell, thinking I understood what commitment and hard work really was.

I was definitely having my eyes opened …… and from seeing the commitment from people that work in the industry as a whole, even our competitors. The hours, the travel, the commitment. Being away from home. Not easy on families.

I was definitely having my eyes opened …… and from seeing the commitment from people that work in the industry as a whole, even our competitors. The hours, the travel, the commitment. Being away from home. Not easy on families.

Working on holidays, Sundays, the overall involvement by many of the farming families. I have tremendous respect for people in this business.

What SURPRISED you about farming?

The biggest surprise is that there’s so much out of your control. Mother Nature …. She is wonderful, and she can be tough! You get humbled continuously in this business because of it.

TELL US ABOUT A DAY ON THE farm.

They’re so different! I’ll give you a typical day. We meet before the sun comes up –5:30 or 6am. Meet with people that are on the production side of the business, mainly on the harvesting side.

A side note about the harvest: we harvest everyday. We harvest 6 days a week, typically, sometimes 7, and that’s 52 weeks a year, so we have continuous harvest of the same products.

For ex: Iceberg lettuce. We are harvesting Iceberg 26 weeks out of a year in Salinas valley. Then we’ll move 200 miles inland for another 5 weeks, and then we’ll travel 600 miles south for another 16 weeks of harvest. Then we’ll travel back up to 200 miles inland from Salinas and harvest for 5 weeks, and then come back to Salinas. That’s just the harvest for that crop.

We have about 60 – 70 items, between organic and conventional crops – yearly.

Anyway, we talk about what the plan is for the day, on the harvest side around 7am. Since we do multiple commodities, all of the managers and people in different divisions are a part of this. Then we go to the different areas of the farm, and throughout the day I try to visit with the different people. See what the quality of the crop looks like, what the pack looks like. And then in the afternoon, we look at what the next day’s harvest will look like and set up the harvest protocol for the next day.

A lot of my week encompasses me physically traveling to different locations, whether by car or by plane. I will fly to Yuma, AZ. Then, drive into Oxnard, be there the next day to noon, and then on to Huron (200 mile inland spot), and then to Salinas that night.

We’ll be based out of Salinas roughly 48 weeks out of the year, but we have some crop outside of Salinas (outside the state of California) at the same time.

I visit these areas to make sure that the people that work with us have our support, and that we have all the continuity that we need to do the best job we can, providing the best possible product for the end user.

What makes you HAPPY in a day on the farm?

The people – there’s no doubt.

This is the 4th generation farming family, and a lot of the people that are still with this organization helped raise me. In addition to that, I get to work with family, too. I get to sit and work with my Dad, my grandfather, my uncle and great-uncles – plus an extended family of long-term employees who are family to us. People who are like family, who helped raise me, watched me play college football, helped teach me the business, mentor me this day. Pretty cool, and pretty unique in this world today. It’s really really special. Really blessed because of it.

What makes you FRUSTRATED?

In general, bureaucracy – legislation – compliance. It’s important, but it takes away from the actual farming and the enjoyment of part of the job – including the farming, growing crops, bringing them to market. Regulation, bureaucracy is a huge challenge, and not to just our farming families, but to many others.

Any lessons learned on the farm?

I think they’re all life lessons, right? To start with, the work ethics side of it, the commitment side of it. Seeing things through - start to finish. They’re all tremendous life lessons, as well as being humbled. Handling adversity outside of your control, because Mother Nature may create havoc.

What do you think a big MISCONCEPTION is about farming or farmers?

I think there would be two:

First, people need to understand that most or many farms, are farming families. Not big corporate farms. It’s farming families. And farming is important to these families …. and they love what they do. They’ve been doing it for generations mostly. Many people think it’s corporations behind it, but it’s not. Families.

Second, our business is much more sophisticated than people realize. Business before was so different … there weren’t the battle-grounds that relate to water, labor, seed varieties, etc. Today you need real professionals to help you navigate through the landmines of business in order to stay in this business today, which we have.

People are highly educated in this industry. Highly educated - from food science degrees, engineering degrees, and a lot of professionals. There are CPAs in our industry, legal / attorneys, many professionals that are all engaged in our industry to help bring the safest and best product to market everyday. There are PHD’s that are engaged in different aspects of our industry, let alone specific companies. There’s compliance and regulatory stuff; and because of that, there are very intelligent people to bring the safest and best product to market.

ANY ADVICE TO OTHER FARMERS?

My father has said this, “The most important ingredient that you can put in a crop is your shadow.” You have to be there everyday. You can be the smartest guy in the world but if you’re not there everyday, you’re going to miss something. You have to be there – if even to make the decision to say or do nothing.

My father has said this, “The most important ingredient that you can put in a crop is your shadow.” You have to be there everyday. You can be the smartest guy in the world but if you’re not there everyday, you’re going to miss something. You have to be there – if even to make the decision to say or do nothing.

Anything to say to people who aren’t farmers? Just have to say, “Thank you.” That’s our consumer, and that’s our customer. So I say, “Thank you.” We wouldn’t be in business today if we didn’t have the support of people buying our crops. We appreciate them supporting us, and other family farms across the country certainly appreciate them.

What concerns you the most about the future of farming?

There are so many areas that farming is under attack about … I think the biggest thing is understanding how important farmers are to the American people and our food supply. If they understand that, we’ll have their support. But there’s less land today than there was yesterday, and there’s more people today than there was yesterday. Farmers are going to have the daunting task to feed our country, and the more people that understand what that entails the better! This will hopefully allow us to do a better job at it. That’s what Farm Star Living’s doing – educating people!

Where do you think you'll be in 5 or 10 years?

Farming. Farming. or Farming.

Farming. Farming. or Farming.

 

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