Fifth-generation California farmer and Thomson International founder Jeff Thomson died Oct. 10 at the age of 69.

Thomson spent more than 40 years in the produce business, starting in the garlic industry in the 1970s. Later his company focused on other commodities including watermelons, onions and bell peppers, and Thomson led the conventional watermelon program for nearly two decades.

“A great man, friend, peer, person,” said Greenfield Fresh salesman Tommy Mendoza in an e-mail. “I looked forward to the California watermelon deal every year because I got to work with this amazing guy and his family. I will forever cherish the years I was privileged to represent his label in the (San Francisco) Bay Area and other Northern California locations. He will be missed.”

Over the years, Thomson’s children Karen, Jack, Annie and Nancy and his wife Elaine worked with him in the business.

The family plans to continue Thomson International and eventually expand it further.

Jeff Thomson’s industry involvement included stints as president of the Kern County Farm Bureau and as chairman of Outstanding Farmers of America. He was also scheduled to receive the 2017 California Leopold Conservation Award, which his family will accept on his behalf next month.

“Jeff will be remembered for not only being innovative in his farming and business practices, but as a man who was well-loved and respected by his employees, customers and colleagues,” the company stated in the release.