Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Gary Thomas of Gary Thomas Farm is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!
In 1973, Gary Thomas started a tobacco farm that would grow and expand far beyond his imagination at that time. Although he did not grow up in a farming family, Gary worked for four different farmers growing up and it established a love in his soul that has kept him rooted in agriculture ever since. “My wife Pam and I started the farm as a tobacco farm in 1973 because there was more money to be made with it than anything else at the time,” Gary said, “but the industry and our farm has changed a lot since its inception and my love of farming and agriculture is what has made me stay with it.” With more than 2,500 acres today, Gary Thomas Farms in Sanford grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes, corn, beans, broccoli, strawberries and asparagus.
A typical day on the farm for Gary starts at 4 a.m. with devotional and prayer to start his day on the right foot. “Farming comes with a lot of challenges, many that you have no control over like the weather,” Gary said, “only God controls that, so if you ain’t right with Him then you ain’t going to make it.” Then he heads over to the farm at 5 a.m. to get things ready for the workers who arrive at 6 a.m. “Once we start working we get at it until the work is done, which can sometimes be 8 or 9 at night,” Gary said.
Gary is not the only one with agriculture in his veins, in fact, all three of his children work on the farm in some capacity as well as his wife. Pam and their oldest son Gary manage the finances. Luke, the middle child, fell in love with farming as a child and has never looked back, and Mandy, the youngest, manages the rules and regulations to be followed by the farm. “I love knowing that I am contributing to and helping our family farm,” Mandy said, “just being a part of it is incredibly rewarding.”
Although farming can present many challenges, including weather, profitability and new regulations, Gary wouldn’t trade a day to be anywhere else. “I really just enjoy watching the crops grow and being a part of the process everyday,” he said.
Products from Gary Thomas Farms can be found at their farm stand on-site, open seasonally from April to June. One of Gary’s favorite things to eat from his farm is sweet potatoes. “I can bake one in the oven and just grab it as a snack when I am going out the door,” he said, “it’s better than a candy bar!” They also have soft-serve ice cream available on-site that you can enjoy while you shop. “Most people come to get ice cream and then end up buying some of our other products,” Gary said, “but no matter what they buy, I am just glad they are eating local because fresh is always better and they know where it is coming from and what’s been put on it.”
In the future, Gary hopes that his grandchildren will develop the same love for agriculture that he has and continue expanding the family farm and legacy. On a rainy day you might hear him singing out Luke Bryan‘s true farm boy anthem, “Rain is a Good Thing.”