aziz date farm thermal


Aziz Farms in Thermal collaborates with Coachella Valley schools to teach children about agriculture.

Amanda Ulrich Current Digital, Social Scene, Vision

aziz date farm thermal

Coachella Valley students listen to a presentation at Aziz Farms in front of produce fields.

Equipped with a blank sheet of paper and a handful of their kids’ colorful markers, Mark Tadros and his wife, Nicole, sat down late one night in 2019 and sketched out the latest iteration of their business. As part of that vision, Mark, a second-generation farmer and the owner of Aziz Farms in Thermal, and Nicole, an assistant principal, realized that students from around the Coachella Valley should be able to explore their family farm.
In other words: a farm-to-school experience.
That night, Nicole drew a simple map of what they wanted their property to look like, including an event space. A couple weeks weeks later, they outlined potential sections for crops, and paths for visitors.

Mark and Nicole Tadros recently launched a field trip series at their family farm in Thermal.

“Our school districts are not that far away,” Nicole explains. “The kids can get here in 20 or 30 minutes, but it’s a whole new world out here for them. A lot of them don’t realize that we grow so much of the produce that they see in the grocery store.”
Three years later, one recent November morning, more than one hundred fifth graders descended on Aziz Farms. They were split into smaller groups and then led around the expansive property, learning how seeds are planted and how crops are grown and harvested. Along the way, Mark, Nicole, and other staff peppered in lesser-known details, like the fact that seeds can go extinct (“just like an animal can,” Mark always emphasizes) and that ladybugs are predators, the “lions of the insect world.”
One focal point of the tour is a small grove of date trees, a miniature version of the 17-acre date farm that Mark’s father created decades ago, which still grows dates today and is just a short drive from the field trip area. The date farm, now co-owned by Mark and his father, features 1,200 towering palms and produces roughly 250,000 pounds of dates a year.

During the pandemic, Mark ended up with a surplus of dates that typically would have gone to restaurants, hotels, and even cruise ships. “I was basically walking around with my head down, like ‘Woe is me, what the hell am I gonna do with all these dates?’” Mark says. “And every day, my wife was coming home, telling me about how many meals they were distributing at their school sites.”

Seeing the need for locally sourced food and produce, Mark started selling his dates, along with fresh fruits and vegetables from other nearby farms, to area school districts. Later, the field trip program at Aziz Farms turned out to be a natural progression. The farm now hosts as many as two or three field trips a week, and Mark and Nicole have had entire schools — about 600 kids in total — tour the property. All told, they’re expecting more than 3,000 students this school year.

Students pull out radishes from the vegetable farm and sample the product.

In Napa Valley, Mark points out, droves of people every year visit the vineyards that produce the region’s famous wine. In the Central Valley, you can tour mile after mile of blooming almond orchards. Mark wanted to see a similar agricultural experience in the Coachella Valley, especially considering the lion’s share of all dates grown in the U.S. come from this area.

“Most of our kids don’t know that,” Mark says. “And most of our adults don’t know that.”

With the Aziz Farms field trips, that connection to the land is slowly growing stronger for students. On the November trip, Nicole noticed that one boy, who had been given a cup with three carrot seeds in it to take home, had named each tiny seed.

“He seemed like he really wanted to take care of his little friends,” she says, “and to make sure that they grew strong.”