Written by: Natural Land's Organic News
In 1953, Stephen Pavich Sr., a Croatian immigrant who knew he wanted more than a job on the fishing docks in northern California, took his first step toward his American dream. He and his wife leased 140 acres of prime agricultural land and made a commitment to growing grapes and raising a family in the Central Valley of California -- renowned as the fruit bowl of the world.
Today, 45 years after Stephen and Helen first farmed their vineyards, his American dream has evolved into one of the real agricultural success stories of the nineties. Pavich Family Farms is now the largest producer of certified organic table grapes in the world, as well as one of the largest marketers of more than 60 varieties of organic fruits, vegetables, dried fruits and nuts.
The business is still managed by family members; Tom Pavich leads the company as president, Stephen Paul Pavich oversees research and development, and Tonya Pavich directs marketing. Pavich now represents more than 40 farmers who use certified organic practices on a combined total of more than 4,000 acres.
"I think Dad would be very proud of us today. I know his vision was to grow in harmony with the environment. He was happy to see me and my brother embrace organic practices, and he was able to witness the benefit organic farming has to the soil, the water and ultimately to the harvest," reflects Tom Pavich.
The Pavich family first took a serious look at organic farming as a result of a farm accident that could have ended in tragedy. Stephen Pavich, then just 22 years old and fresh from studying agriculture at Fresno State University, entered a rinsed-down pesticide spray tank. He became so overwhelmed by the fumes, someone else had to pull him out. He recalls, "It was like climbing out of a grave."
That accident was a crucial turning point for Stephen, who decided with his brother and father to use organic methods such as cover crops and composted manure. instead of chemical-based applications such as pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and herbicides.
After the accident, the Pavichs soon became leaders in California's emerging organic farming movement. They were among the first to lobby for state standards and certification for organic. Today, the Pavichs hold leadership posts at a national level for the organic industry, including a post on the National Organic Standards Board, the California Organic Foods Advisory Board, the Organic Farming Research Foundation, the Organic Trade Association, the Produce Marketing Association, and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Today, Pavich Family Farms' primary concern is the USDA's Proposed Rule for organics, now on the Federal Register for public review until April 30, 1998.
"The current draft, with its politically motivated inclusions such as genetic engineering and food irradiation practices and the use of sewage sludge on organic farmland and sulfur dioxide for table grapes, has absolutely no place in organic farming or production," said Stephen Pavich.
"We want an organic marketplace that all consumers can trust, whether that is at the supermarket or local farmer's market doesn't matter. Today, 'organic' stands for premium quality grown in an environmentally friendly way. We will continue to fight for a USDA 'organic' definition that takes the high road because, ultimately, shoppers deserve an organic label they can rely on," said Tonya Pavich, who oversees marketing and sales for the Pavich brand.
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