The first growing season for Next Step Produce was the spring of 2000. It began with the vision of life-time farmer Heinz Thomet. Soon after, Gabrielle Lajoie joined him and then the first of their three daughters was born. We have grown into a true family farm. Daughters Mikayla, Raphaelle and Hazel actively (though selectively, which is healthy) participate in farming activities. Mikayla enjoys working alongside people, prepping vegetables clean and beautiful for market, and has weeded more than her fair share of rice! Raphaelle joyfully and expertly harvests almost everything and actually enjoys weeding (everything but rice)! Hazel scrutinizes her father as he works the various machinery and relishes in opportunities to drive the tractor! Over the years, many good people have joined us and committed and contributed to the workings of the farm.
Since its inception in 2000, Next Step Produce has grown and evolved in many ways, while always staying on task to its commitment. From the beginning, we felt that Next Step Produce needed a mission statement to guide us. “Committed to Growing Nourishing Food in Harmony with Nature” would be our guidance.
Diverse seasonal vegetable production has been our mainstay since the beginning, all the while venturing into something new and uncommon for Southern Maryland, such as fresh ginger, turmeric, fava beans, bitter melons, bottle gourds, roselle, mustard seeds, and more! We also have a mature orchard of hardy, as well as fuzzy, kiwi berry vines, Asian persimmons, as well as figs. In 2010 we planted our first grains for human consumption and have since added upland rice and dried beans to the rotation. For a vegetarian family, the farm provides our food needs almost entirely, and it could for you as well!