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.
Growing up, daughters Mikayla, Raphaelle, and Hazel lived the autonomous and enriching nature of farm life. There is nothing more beautiful than watching children at play in the natural world: learning independently as they climb, construct, connect, and willingly snatch raw kale leaves to munch on while at play. Then farm children grow to gain character from noble work that forces one outside one’s comfort zone and that produces true wealth from a seed. Farm life has taught these young ladies the value of honest work, as well as the grit and know-how to get it done. Now, we find ourselves with a semi-open nest, with daughters having or preparing to spread their wings and fly. While many places in this world could use their good hand, this nest will remain open for their potential return.
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” it would be.
Diverse seasonal vegetable production was our mainstay in 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, and more! We also have a mature orchard of hardy, as well as fuzzy, kiwi vines, Asian persimmons, as well as figs. In 2010 we planted our first grains for human consumption and have since added upland rice and dry beans to the rotation. Diversity continues to be our crop insurance, although our mainstay has now transitioned to grains, beans, and seeds. The farm provides our food needs almost entirely, and it could for you as well!