Elzo Williams is one man, but he hopes his ambitions and dreams of social entrepreneurship will take off.
Williams, a Delta College student, built Harvester Farms in 2015 at the edge of Stockton with plans of creating an abundance of food to support his goal of donating to the local food shelters and pantries.
The project started as a small door-to-door operation, where Williams would ask various fruit-tree owners if he could pick and donate unwanted fruits.
“We had no clue what we were doing when we started. We had this passionate dream, mostly mine, but my wife and my daughter have bought into and a lot of other people have who have who’ve learned about it,” said Williams. “We wanted to prevent waste in the yards and get the food to the food banks and food pantries. The only way to make that a self-sustainable practice for someone who has to work, is to find a way to generate revenue,”
One small bump in Williams dream – who was already working full time for Comcast – would also need to take the time to lobby for grants and donations, coupled with all of the mathematics and management that came with overseeing the grants, donations, spending and payments among other things.
For Williams, it seemed like the sacrifices he would need to make for what he loved were becoming too steep.
Then it hit him.
“Or, be a farmer. Say I have 300 acres or 500 acres let me just shave off two or four of them and do something for the community. The thing is, I don’t know any farmers… when I was working with Comcast, I met my now landlords which own the land and live next door. They haven’t done anything with the land, it was inherited in his wife’s family and they haven’t used it,” he said.
Williams has ambitious designs on how he wishes to approach the design and function of his farm, but is forced by his farm’s youth into a blissful patience as he acquires necessary equipment, tractors included, for expansion.
“Holt of California, a manager over in Salida told me that they would bring one over for hayrides and to show, which is perfect because Benjamin Holt invented the tractor here in Stockton and no better tractor for us to have on the farm than a Caterpillar,” he said.
One of the ambitions Williams has is a focus on educating his visitors about the revolutionary impact Stockton has had in agriculture, including the namesakes of numerous buildings around Delta, such as Holt, named after Benjamin Holt, and Shima, named after George Shima, the first Japanese American millionaire who was nicknamed “The Potato King.”
Delta’s Tillie Lewis Theatre is also named after Lewis, who revolutionized the canning industry and was called “The Tomato Queen.”
“We want to teach people about the history that our community has with agriculture. We invented tractors, we were the first in the nation to grow tomatoes that otherwise only grew in Italy, because of Tillie Lewis. A lot of the names at Delta students have no clue, it’s just a name,” said Williams.
However, Williams’ ambitions don’t stop with revitalizing history.
He wishes to fence in his fields, plant seasonal crops for donation, education and sale, develop a pumpkin patch, plant a corn maze, create a petting zoo and expand the tonnage he can donate.
He hopes to be able to sell his fruits, homemade pies, stinging nettle tea and jarred honey from specialized flow hive. A flow hive is specially designed to extract honey safely from the nest like a soda fountains tap.
“Everything we grow on the farm, unlike the stuff we’re already picking from people’s homes, is intended to be for educational purposes, and when it’s producing the product whether it’s strawberries or pumpkins whatever, then the purpose becomes to generate revenue for our cause,” said Williams.
The Williams family hopes to gain the funds for the expansion from a planned fundraiser for private friends and family.