Domino's Farms and Whatley Farms Join to Save Small Farms

Domino's Farms and Whatley Farms join together to save small farms in the U.S. This unique combination of talents may end up saving 100,000 of this country's small farmers by the year 2000.


| July/August 1988



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The Whatley farm depends on diversity and "pick-your-own power" to maintain high profitability and 90% efficiency.


PHOTO: MICHAEL SOLURI

Domino's Farms and Whatley Farms are dedicated to saving 100,000 small farms in the U.S. by the year 2000. 

Domino's Farms and Whatley Farms Join to Save Small Farms

They seem, at first glance, to be an odd couple: Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of the world's largest pizza delivery company and owner of the Detroit Tigers... and Booker T. Whatley, a 72-year-old, retired horticulturist from Tuskegee Institute, who over the years, has developed five sweet potato and 215 muscadine grape varieties. On closer examination, however, their partnership makes perfect sense.

Tom Monaghan, who spent much of his childhood in a Catholic orphanage, developed a love of farm life while living in rural foster homes. One of his most vivid memories, he says, was deciding, while shoveling manure, to become a Catholic priest. Though Tom was dismissed from seminary school because, he was told, he "lacked the vocation," his entrepreneurial talents remain well leavened with idealism. That combination enabled him, over a period of 25 years, to expand a single pizza shop into a corporation that, by the end of 1987, had 4,279 stores (158 in other countries) with annual system-wide sales of $1,977,500,000.

In 1985, however, Tom went back to his roots and established the international headquarters for Domino's Pizza on a farm near Ann Arbor. When the $300 million Domino's Farms project is completed around 1990, its 1,500 acres will include a four-story, one-half-mile-long, Frank Lloyd Wright-style headquarters building called Prairie House (already partially built and occupied). The complex, which is open to the public, already includes a petting farm, a horse farm and—its newest addition—a pick-your-own farm designed by Booker T. Whatley.

"When we're finished," Monaghan has said, "I hope that workers in Domino's offices will be able to look out a window and see a cow or a horse looking in at them."

Monaghan's deep interest in farming is not, after all, very strange, because food is his business. The 190 million pizzas his company sold in 1987 required 160 million pounds of flour, 107 million pounds of cheese, 4.2 million pounds of green peppers, 4.5 million pounds of onions, 13 million pounds of mushrooms, 12 million pounds of sausage, 5 million pounds of ham, 22 million pounds of pepperoni and 2.1 million cases of Domino's Pizza's own tomato sauce. So, in 1984, after reading in the Wall Street journal about Whatley's plan to help small farms make big money, Monaghan quickly gave the Alabama small-farm authority a call.





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