jimFounder, President, Swanton Berry Farms

As the Food Commons Chief Financial Officer, Jim oversees the development of the organization’s financing model and resource development.  As co-founder he has key roles on both the Executive Team and National Board.

As founder and president of Swanton Berry Farms, Jim grew the farm from a startup in 1983 to a successful mid-scale organic farming organization located on 200 acres along Highway One about twelve miles north of Santa Cruz, CA. Succession management has been in place for the last five years, and today he serves part-time as mentor to operational managers.

In 1983, there were no California commercial strawberry growers using organic farming methods. Jim developed both the production methods and the early market for organically grown strawberries. In 1987, Swanton Berry Farm became the first commercial strawberry farm to be certified organic.

In 1998, Jim turned his focus to labor issues in the organic industry, and became the first organic farm to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers. The contract includes employer-paid health and dental insurance, a pension plan, vacation pay, and holiday pay – to his knowledge, the best benefits package in the organic industry. In 2006, Swanton Berry Farm became the only farming operation in the US to provide an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Employees now own about 15% of the company.

From 2003-2008, Jim served on the Stewardship Council of the California Roots of Change and as chair of the Business Council, he first introduced the concept of a new architecture for the food system, which evolved over time into the Food Commons.

Awards include the EPA’s Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award (2002), the Ecological Farming Association’s Honoring Advocates for Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture Award (2006), and the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Growing Green Food Producer Award (2011). In 2004, he traveled to Rome to make a presentation about US agricultural labor standards at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Jim was a founding member of Slow Money, an offshoot of Investors’ Circle and has written for publications including California Agriculture and WorldWatch Magazine.

Prior to farming, Jim was business and management advisor to a group of farm cooperatives owned by former farmworkers, the Federación Agrícola de California.

In prior years, he had worked for a time on the credit committee at the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, co-founded Monterey Bay Textiles, and taught at the University Children’s Center.

Jim received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.