“There are other alternatives to country and western to listen to,” Thomas says with a laugh. Thomas himself plays the organ and piano, but says he lacks much talent. “I’ve always appreciated people who are gifted with the ability to play these instruments—and sort of envious of them I suppose. I am fortunate to be in a position in which I can sponsor the talent of some of these people.”
While he brings big city performances to the country, he’s also working to bring more of the country to city folk. He regularly hosts church, school and civic groups at the ranch for a glimpse of life outside of the concrete sprawl.
“There’s a disconnect between the rural community and urbanites,” Thomas said. “People can live on the 32nd floor of a condo in Houston or Dallas, and yet count on three great meals a day, seven days a week. The city structure can only survive with great American agriculture.
“What we’re trying to build to is a symbiosis. We’ll bring groups out from metropolitan areas and have a field day in a rural area, so they can gain insight into where their food and fiber comes from and what it takes to keep them happy in the city.”
Cultured in Conservation
Conservation has been a touchstone of the Thomas Ranch for the past half century. Thomas has served in a variety of capacities with the local soil and water conservation district in the last 35 years, including president of the local chapter and chairman of the south-central region of the national chapter. Recently, he was elected to serve on the executive committee at the national level. He advocates for conservation not only for the sake of the environment, but because it’s good business.
“I’m a grass farmer first,” said Thomas, discussing his hybrid Bermuda grass crop. Soil and water conservation efforts equal better grass, and better grass equals better livestock. “Pasture improvement, cross fencing, water impoundment projects, erosion control—conservation efforts have been of great benefit to improving our bottom line.”
The vineyard is part of the conservation plan, as Thomas utilizes drip irrigation to great success. Last year he sold more than 82,000 pounds of grapes to Messina Hof Winery in Bryan.