Summer 2015 is about Tony Scherer - Sprout President & Co-Founder
What do you do and what is your background?
I was born in New Jersey but my parents moved to Southern California when I was just an infant. At that time Southern California had a good deal of farm land and other than selling newspapers in front of the grocery store all of the part time jobs I had as a child were related to agriculture and probably by the time I was ten I knew I wanted to be a farmer. My parents were happy having a vegetable garden and some chickens and were good sports about the sheep I raised to show in the county fair (US version of royal show).
Ag science was not really an option way back then so I went to university and studied landscape architecture and horticulture . Once I left university I have never been employed but have started a number of business’s. I had a landscape business which did everything from private homes, to subdivisions to golf courses. I then had a business that mulched the sides of newly developed highways. There were so many of those I then left Southern California and moved to Santa Cruz and started farming food.
I grew a number of berries and mixed vegetables. This is the farm that started me down the path of organic agriculture. It was then that a group of us farmers started the first farmers market in Santa Cruz and the first chapter of the California Certified Organic Farmers.
My brother and I also started and ran a business that packed and shipped organic produce around the country. This was back when Whole Foods only had 3 stores.
How did you first become involved with Sprout?
Alice Percy (Co-Founder and CEO of Sprout) did the research for her PhD at Frogmore Creek back when it was a certified organic vineyard. Her research was on disease control using compost extracts. We spent a good deal of time together over those years trying to convince farmers to give her extract a go and talked a lot about our vision for the agricultural future of this state. We finally decided that we were not going to grow any of the farmers we were dreaming about while riding around in my ute so we started talking about developing an NGO that might just convince some people that they wanted to share our vision.
What is your vision for Tasmania’s agricultural future?
Tasmania future lies in becoming a premium fruit and vegetable production area according to me. We get there by doing a better job and by growing things that we might consider speciality products. We need to become innovators of this process as we will never be big enough to compete on the commodity market and I wonder why we would want to.
Who is your food hero: your greatest inspiration as a cook/grower?
Well hands down no one works magic on produce like Luke Burgess. Well there might be someone else out there but at this point in time I have not been fortunate enough to get to taste their food. As for the cook/grower combination I don’t have to look any further than Lachlan (The Agrarian Kitchen). Rodney and Severine have grown a wonderful business and tourist destination literally from the dirt up. They plant it, they dig it up and then they teach people how to prepare it. There are people on the mainland who love their classes so much they have attended more than 15 of them.
What ingredients are you most excited about right now?
Well this is a bit self-interested but as I have 14 different varieties of melons in the ground, 1400 hundred tomato plants which include 30 different varieties, a half-acre of potatoes and an acre of garlic I am very excited about all of those.