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July 7, 2016

Thomas Brand of Plano Produce

More than 75 acres of rich farmland surrounds Thomas Brand's home in the community of Plano, Kentucky. Just a skip over the state line is where he and his family have resided for over 30 years and have raised everything from cattle to fruit trees to fields of organic vegetables. His wife, Cathy, tends her flower gardens around their  home, while Thomas enjoys his time on the land he has come to know intimately through years of cultivation.

When Thomas Brand was a child, his family operated a plantation with 48 other families in Ruleville, Miss. As sharecroppers, the families picked and chopped cotton alongside one another to earn a commission for every bale produced. In 1963, Thomas recalls, his family earned $1,500 for 63 bales, which was considered big money back when a sack of flour was $5 and gas was $.18 a gallon.

As he moved into adulthood, Thomas continued to pursue his agricultural roots, and graduated from Alcorn State University with a degree in Agriculture and a minor in Biology. When he began work with U.S. Steel in the Agri-Chemical Department in 1972, he was the first African-American hired, paving the way for other minorities in the agribusiness industry.

Through decades of farming experience, Thomas Brand owns an intuition and talent of understanding the temperament of the land he works. His wisdom  allows him to grow his fruit trees and vegetable crops without the synthetic herbicides or fertilizers he feels rob his produce of their natural flavors. "What I like about growing my vegetables  is that they're not commercial or shipped — they're natural," Thomas says. "Most farmers that have been farming as long as I have understand the land and what makes things grow without a whole lotta health problems. It takes time to understand that process."

Today, Thomas Brand relaxes into retirement as a successful land and business owner and a member of the Nashville Farmers' Market family. He can be found selling his organic produce under the moniker Plano Produce every week where he is never shy of discussing his passion for the food he grows. He is most well known for quality and freshness, and loves to teach his customers about the different varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs he brings to market each week.  

 "The beautiful thing about the Nashville Farmers' Market is the people," Thomas remarks. "They're good people, and I've established relationships with all of them. I love seeing my repeat customers every week, and I think that shows."

Find Thomas in Farm Shed 1 chatting up customers about the natural sweetness of his hand-picked Swiss chard or the perfection of his freshly dug onions every Friday and Saturday at the Nashville Farmers' Market.

 

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