As fourth and fifth generation farmers, our roots run deep in California’s Central Valley. My great-grandfather, John Cox, settled here in 1860, where he set up a farm and raised his family. Like my great-grandfather and grandfather before him, my father, Stewart Cox, put down roots on the family farm in Westley, CA. He married my mother, Grace, and soon my brother John and I were born. We grew up on the farm, driving tractors before our feet could reach the pedals, and working alongside our father in the fields and orchards. It was hard work, but farming was in our blood, and we loved it.
After college and enlisting in the Navy, I returned to Westley. The farm was home, and I knew it was where I wanted to raise my own family. I married the lovely Karen Quick, and we had two children, Matt and Megan (the fifth generation, who I’m proud to say, are part of the family business).
In 1985, Karen and I began selling dehydrated tomatoes from our farm, and called our company ‘Just Tomatoes.’ Over the years, we added apples and persimmons, then berries, corn, and peas. As farmers, we knew all about growing things—crops as well as relationships—so we built partnerships with other farmers to help grow our company. With new dehydrated and freeze-dried fruits and veggies in the line up, Just Tomatoes became much more than ‘just tomatoes.’ As a tribute to the nurturing spirit of my wife, in 2016, we’ve renamed the company Karen’s Naturals.
Although we’ve grown, we’re still a small, family-run business at heart. We care deeply about what we do and are committed to offering the highest quality farm-grown products. —Bill Cox
The Next Chapter of Karen’s Naturals
An interview with Megan, Daughter of the original founders, Karen & Bill
My parents worked so incredibly hard to build this business together. They put so much heart and soul into making it successful. They cared so deeply about providing a high quality healthy product for anyone to enjoy, as well as providing jobs for a lot of people. This truly was my mom’s (Karen’s) passion! And she brought my dad (Bill, the farmer) along for the ride. I grew up watching and learning what their values were, as business owners. Since losing my mom, it has become my goal to not let her dreams get lost. And now, her dreams have become my own dreams. I try to emulate her in all that I do. I often think, “what would Karen do?” She was the most incredible human being I’ve ever known, and it’s an absolute honor to be following in her footsteps.
For a lot of years, I felt obligated to take over KN, because of who I was. When my mom (Karen) passed away in 2009, I felt some pressure to be the next “face of the company”, because I was the most obvious candidate. However, this was not my true passion and it was not the right time for me. I was busy raising my babies, and working part time in sales for Karen’s Naturals. Once my 2 kids were no longer babies, I felt it was the right time to finally jump into the office and fulfill my role here.
It helped that I wrangled my husband in for the ride! The first 6-12 months were an absolute blur… But after getting our footing, I began to really enjoy this position. Now, 3.5 years later, I absolutely LOVE this business and my role in it. I couldn’t imagine NOT doing this, and so thankful that we made the decision to do it.
My husband, Andrew, handles all of the boring stuff! He makes sure all of the certifications, compliance and regulatory requirements are in order. He’s good at that stuff. I am not! He’s also really good at cracking jokes and making everyone around here laugh. To be honest, we were really nervous about working together. A lot of couples don’t survive that. We were very pleasantly surprised to find that we were not only able to get through it, but it actually strengthened our bond. We had to become a united front, to get through the crazy battle together. We had the same end goal, so after a while we figured out where each of our strengths lie and just went with it. Things have shifted around a bit, as far as what we both do, but ultimately, it’s been amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better business partner or life partner!
As an owner, It’s really important to me to continue our high standards when it comes to quality. I would never want to sacrifice that for more sales or a lower price point. Customer service has always been a huge part of Just Tomatoes/Karen’s Naturals, and that is still a top priority to this day. I love providing a positive & healthy work environment. I love that our employees enjoy coming to work. I love that the jobs here help support local families. It really just feels good to be putting something good out into the world. I hope to always be growing and striving as an individual and a business owner. We plan to expand our products in the next year, and do some different stuff, and that’s really exciting to all of us.
-Megan Devlin, CEO