Lodi’s Phillips Farms matriarch dies at 93

Those who knew Jeanne Marie Phillips, knew her as a trailblazer in her efforts to bring freshly picked produce to consumers through her fruit stands.

It was because of Jeanne’s passion for gardening that she became an expressive advocate for the purchasing locally sourced produce.

“She was big into the farm to fork movement, before it became a thing,” Jeanne’s son Michael Phillips said.

Jeanne Phillips, 93, passed away peacefully in her Lodi home on Saturday, May 4.

Michael fondly remembers how his mother would attend farmers markets and attract the attention of shoppers through her gregarious personality.

It was through her infectious excitement and luminous charm that people naturally gravitated towards her.

“She would love to teach people about fresh produce and explain the taste difference between newly picked heirloom tomatoes and store bought tomatoes,” Michael said.

Jeanne became involved in fruit stands and farmers markets after to provide more income for the family when times got tough, according to her son David Phillips.

“She helped save our farm by selling produce directly to consumers. She would go to farmers markets in the Bay Area, Davis, Sacramento, and Stockton, and sell our fruits and vegetables,” David said.

Through Jeanne’s tenacity and unparalleled work ethic, she taught her children the importance of working hard, being honest, and caring about what they did.

“When we started out at the Sacramento farmers market we were one of four farm stands there. But that did not matter to my mom, because she was passionate about it and she taught us that if you want something you have to go out and make it happen,” Michael said.

Jeanne managed the Phillips Farms Fruit stands, and helped pioneer the farmers market movement throughout Northern California. She sat on multiple farmers market boards, and advocated for the creation of the Lodi farmers market.

Jeanne’s ardent efforts to enhance the community were extended beyond the scope of her love for farming and unfurled into her love of teaching which she did part-time as she raised her children.

Through teaching, she developed an avid skill for storytelling, which materialized into the creation of the beloved pumpkin patch.

“Both Jeanne and Don were the heart and soul of this town, and the pumpkin patch and corn maze brightened the hearts of many children in the community,” Lodi Mayor Mark Chandler said.

Jeanne would become “The Good Witch” and wear red socks, and tell stories to thousands of school children during the month of October.

“She would invite students from One.Charter Elementary School for homeless children in Stockton, to come and enjoy the pumpkin patch,” David said.

Jeanne held a special place in her heart for children and always wanted to have a big family, which encouraged her and her husband (Don Phillips) to adopt and foster children.

As a mother Jeanne taught her kids how to ski and fish.

“She was a true outdoorsman, I don’t think people really knew that about her. She always had a sense of adventure,” David said.

But Jeanne’s real passion was found in cooking, which encouraged her to author a cookbook that honored classic family recipes that were passed down from generation to generation.

“My mom really liked to cook chicken livers. Its kind of a weird thing that most people don’t like but she loved it,” Michael said. “After we got the news she had passed me and my brother made chicken livers in honor of her because she got us to appreciate them.”

Jeanne is also remembered for her deep seeded devotion for gardening and experimenting with seedling types.

“She had a garden with different varieties of lavender and flowers that she used to allow people who visited the farm to pick from,” Michael said.

As a UC Master Gardener Jeanne actively researched plant species and tested their survivability in the central valley. She constantly read about seedlings and researched different types of heirlooms and white corn, according to Michael.

“My mom was involved in a lot of things she loved to garden, but whatever she did she always gave back to the people of Lodi,” David said.

It is through each of Jeanne’s passion projects that the community has been enriched; she is believed to have left a reverberating footprint in Lodi, for her civil service and her influence in the agricultural industry.

Jeanne was preceded in death by her husband Donald Phillips, son Richard “Mickey” Phillips, son Bruno Phillips, brother Donald Perrin, and brother Jerry Perrin.

She is survived by sons Peter Phillips (Mary), Michael Phillips (Kristy), David Phillips (Corene), daughter in law Connie Phillips, 12 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Lodi Funeral home located at 725 S. Fairmont Ave. in Lodi.

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