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It all began in 1972, when Manuel Vieira (left) visited California from Brazil to attend a wedding. Back then, his uncle, Antonio Vieira Tomas, had a farming business in the Livingston area. Manuel liked what he saw and stayed.

Five years later, Uncle Antonio—who was growing several crops—sold Manuel the sweetpotato part of the business.

“It grew from there,” says his son Carlos (right), “and here we are.”

“Here” is A. V. Thomas Produce, one of the leading suppliers of sweetpotatoes in the U.S. That original twenty acres is now over 3,000, all grown organically, plus another 3,000 acres that A.V. Thomas contracts. They’re packing facility operates 24 hours a day year-round.

Wow, right?

“From the beginning it was just a lot of hard work,” explains Carlos, who officially joined the company in 1992. “But customer service was also something my father did extremely well.”

Organic has been another key to A.V. Thomas’s success. They began growing organic sweetpotatoes in the late 1980s, and were one of the first in the country. They took their sweetpotatoes to Whole Foods, then in its infancy, and the rest is history. “I take a lot of pride in that,” says Carlos. “I feel like we played a part in growing the organic food industry.”

After more than 45 years, Manuel is still very engaged with the company. But he also likes to travel and spend time with local Portuguese community organizations.

Carlos keeps busy as vice president of A.V. Thomas. But he still finds time for race car driving—!—and the Carlos Vieira Foundation—!!—a nonprofit charity committed to strengthening communities. (Check it out at

“I just appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices from my parents, and all the trust our customers have in us,” says Carlos.

We appreciate that hard work, too, and how generously the Vieiras share their themselves with the community.