Organic king Dick Peixoto of Lakeside Organics grows and gives big
ORIGINAL STORY BY RYAN MASTERS, SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL POSTED 3/16/16
WATSONVILLE >> In 1977, Dick Peixoto was a young Watsonville farmer struggling to survive to another harvest. The outlook was grim. His fuel company had just cut him off due to an $8,000 debt. Without fuel to run his equipment, Peixoto’s fledgling business would go to seed.
“I was dead in the water until a guy from a local fuel business knocked on my door. He not only offered to sell me the fuel I needed, but he also paid off my debt and gave me 30 days breathing room and manageable terms to repay him,” Peixoto said. “All he wanted in return was my business. I’ve been buying fuel from him for almost 40 years now.”
During the past four decades, Peixoto, 59, has transformed 40-odd acres of conventional green beans into Lakeside Organic Gardens, the largest family owned, solely organic grower-shipper in the U.S. And despite experiencing 20 percent year-over-year growth, Lakeside Organic Gardens can’t come close to fulfilling the massive market demand for its product.
“I’ve been broke twice since I started growing organic. There was a time when I couldn’t even go down to Taco Bell and charge a burrito on my credit card. I understand tough times,” Peixoto said. “People often experience circumstances beyond their control and they need some help.”
In 2015, Peixoto donated $375,000 to 17 local organizations, including Pajaro Valley Shelter Services, CASA of Santa Cruz County, The Salvation Army and Second Harvest Food Bank.
In early January, Peixoto announced that Lakeside Organic Gardens was investing $2 million toward a learning center that could help shape the future or organic and sustainable agriculture.