June 9, 1951 – Jan. 22, 2018
Michael K. Thorpe, owner and manager of Thorpe’s Organic Family Farm outside East Aurora, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 66.
He and his wife were honored as 2017 Farmers of the Year by the NOFA-NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York).
Born in Buffalo, he was a 1969 graduate of Iroquois Central High School and earned an associate’s degree in agricultural engineering from Alfred State in 1971.
He married the former Gayle Ewert in 1981 and purchased a large farm on Strykersville Road (Route 78) from her uncle two years later.
“They started switching to organic in the 1990s,” Abigail Thorpe, one of their six adult children who are now on the farm, told an interviewer in 2016. “My dad was growing field crops and my mom was focusing on fruits and vegetables. They started switching strawberries to organic in the 1990s, and that was when the organic movement was starting to take hold in Western New York. The entire farm became certified in 1999.”
The farm grew from 1,000 acres to 2,500 acres and includes a farm store and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program with 450 shareholders.
In 2009, the Thorpes purchased an orange grove in Florida, spent winters there and now grow certified organic lemons, grapefruit, oranges and vegetables.
He was a 29-year member of Calvary Heights Baptist Church in Elma, where he taught Sunday school and sang in the choir.
He enjoyed hunting, fishing, logging, tapping trees for maple syrup and his family’s vacation home on French River in Ontario.
His generosity included occasionally opening his home to people in need and supporting local charities that assist the homeless.
In addition to his wife, survivors include three sons, Jeremiah, Abraham and Elijah; three daughters, Abigail, Naomi and Hannah; a brother, John; a sister, Laurie Hatch; and eight grandchildren.
A celebration of his life was held Friday in Calvary Heights Baptist Church, 981 Bowen Road, Elma.