MBEP Member Spotlight: Lakeside Organic Gardens Embraces Opportunities to Invest in the Region

Lakeside Organic Gardens understands the importance of tending to its roots. Since its founding in 1996, this MBEP member has grown into the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the U.S. The Watsonville-based grower-shipper embraces that philosophy beyond the fields, to taking care of the employees and the community in which it thrives.

The company hosts an annual employee picnic to celebrate what it considers its greatest asset, hosts an employee-only farmers market at its cooling facility, and lets employees take a fresh bag of premium Lakeside Organic vegetables home to their families on a daily basis. That’s in addition to company-wide profit-sharing and year-end bonuses for all 300 of the company’s employees.

Ironically, the nation’s single largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper has its own roots in conventional farming. Owner Dick Peixoto grew up immersed in the conventional ag industry, with ancestors that began farming in the Pajaro Valley in the late 1800s and a father who worked for a 

fertilizer and pest control company. He started farming when he graduated from high school in 1975, and 20 years later, transitioned to organic farming.

These days, Lakeside Organic Gardens produces 50+ commodities on 3,000 organically farmed acres in Watsonville and Imperial Valley.

Peixoto is recognized as a leader within the industry and a strong proponent of ag education for all levels: During career days at Diamond Technology Institute, a design thinking high school in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Lakeside Organic Produce employees introduce students to the wide range of career aspects in agriculture, particularly those involving technology, and the company frequently donates seedling to schools in the region. At this year’s EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar in January, Peixoto led a workshop on cover crops and crop rotation and hosted a farm tour for ag industry professionals.

The company is also known for its philanthropy in support of community events and causes, including Pajaro Valley Shelter Services and an annual benefit at the Peixoto family’s restaurant, The California Grill, supporting the Katz Cancer Resource Center at Dominican Hospital and Jacob’s Heart Cancer Resource Center in Watsonville. Last year, Second Harvest Food Bank recognized Peixoto as a Hunger Fighter of the Year for his sponsorship and donations of more than 300,000 pounds of food, which provided over 4 million healthy meals in the community. The company also donates thousands of pounds of produce annually to festivals, local organizations, non-profits and schools and invests in scholarship, memorial funds and multiple local charities.

“He loves to support people in need to help them move up to the next level so they can be an asset to the future of our community,” said Lakeside Organic GardensCreative Marketing Manager Marliese McWherter.