The Tos family has a long lineage in agriculture. Mark’s great-grandfather Johannes Tos immigrated from the Netherlands in 1906. After entering the United States through Ellis Island, he made his way to California in 1912 and started Tos Family Farms. He settled by the Kings River near other Dutch immigrants and opened the Christian Reformed Church in Hanford which is now over 100 years old. They farmed cotton, corn and had dairy cows and cattle. During the Depression, Johannes was able to continue to make his land payments with the help of his sons Lawrence and William (Bill) Sr. who farmed alongside of him.
During the 1950’s Lawrence was in the milk barn and was kicked in the face by a cow. This altercation ended up with Lawrence making an executive decision unbeknownst to other family members to get rid of the dairy cows. From that point forward, they began farming only field and tree crops. Over time, the Tos family began to increase their acreage and diversify their crops.
Tos Farms is currently farming about 5000 acres which includes almonds, walnuts, stone fruit and table grapes. Mark spends part of his day out in the field and the other part in the office. He works closely with his father on strategic planning for the future of the farm. In the past, the older generation of farmers did most of the work themselves. Today, farming has become more complicated with the food safety and compliance requirements. The younger generation is approaching farming from a different perspective. Farms today cannot continue to grow without hiring people to help. Mark feels it is imperative to hire and identify people within the organization who can do specific jobs and then manage them to do the job correctly.
Tos Farms is still a multigenerational farming operation and (uncle) John and (father) Bill Jr. are now the third generation. They are putting succession plans and incentives in place for their sons Jeff and Mark respectively to eventually take over.
It is not often you will find a successful family business who have been working together for more than 100 years. In fact, statistics show, 70% of all family owned businesses fail before they are passed on to the 2nd generation and almost 90% do not make it to the 3rd generation. With odds like this, one must wonder what the Tos family secret is.
Mark attributes this to their Christian upbringing, and their unconditional love and respect for each other. In addition, they are visionary and adaptable to the ever-changing agricultural industry. Tos Farms has 6 employees who have been working for them for over 35 years and have played an important role in the farming operations. Retaining 6 employees for that length of time speaks loudly as to what kind of employer they are to work for.
The Tos family has deep roots in the Hanford area and they continue to build and maintain relationships within the community. Mark is on the school board for Central Valley Christian School. His parents established the Bill and Linda Tos Family Foundation and Mark now serves as a director. The foundation awards scholarships towards a Christian education. For more information on this and the list eligible schools and colleges please check out the website here.
Consumers, especially millennials are requiring more accountability and transparency from the farm to the table. A 2017 survey by the Center for Food Integrity shows that only 30% of shoppers polled believe that farmers take good care of the environment. There is a disconcerting disconnect between consumers and farmers regarding our food production. The Tos family has an unwavering commitment to their community, their land, its natural resources, and the environment. The continued success of their family business and whether it can be passed down to future generations is dependent on this.
All photo credits by the Tos Family.