Larry Santos of Taylor Farming in Salinas, California, has been named 2024’s Organic Farmer of the Year, recognized by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) for his outstanding contribution to organic agriculture.

Larry is Senior Farm Manager for Taylor Farming, a grower and supplier of vegetables to Taylor Farms and Earthbound Farm (owned by Taylor Farms). He oversees 1,200 organic hectares (3,000 acres) and works with four experienced organic farm managers to produce more than 30 different vegetable and high-quality tender leaf crops in California’s Salinas Valley.  

Larry’s farming roots date back to when he was a teenager in South Monterey County of California, and he first got involved in organic farming in 1995 when it was still a niche and relatively unknown practice. Santos was in his early 20s and working on a piece of land in the Salinas Valley that had not been farmed for 15 years. He encouraged his boss to give this “new, experimental” growing method a try, and the farm was transitioned to certified organic by 1998. What started as 80 hectares (200 acres) has now expanded to 240 hectares (600 acres) and is one of the most productive organic farms in the Valley. Santos still manages that farm, planting three crop rotations and producing 730 organic crop hectares a year.

Larry’s commitment to organic agriculture extends beyond the farm; he also helps educate local school kids on how to grow healthy organic vegetables through involvement with his community’s elementary school.   

“Trust and integrity are crucial to the success of organic. We’re only using this earth for a little while, so we want to make sure it’s there for the next generation,” says Larry. “Organic is the safest thing for our planet today and a way to give back. We have to give back to our soil to protect it for our children and their children’s children. Plus, organic is the tastiest produce you can buy!”   

As for organic’s future, Larry is full of optimism, saying, “I see more non-organic farmers adopting more organic methods, and I see a really big demand for organic with future generations. I believe as people get more educated about environmental issues and organic’s benefits, there will be more pressure for organic.”