The Small Farmer’s Project was a micro-enterprise project of Huerto de la Familia’s Cambios Program. They have now graduated and are their own business entity separate from our organization.
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In Oregon and across the United States, we face a looming agricultural crisis. The average age of the small-scale American family farmer is 56 years old. Some estimates project that between one-third to half of all of the farms in Oregon will see the principal operator retire within the next decade. Who is going to grow our food? According to the 2007 Census data, 15 percent of all new farmers (300,000) were self-classified as Hispanic in origin. With a critical need to regionalize our food systems for sustainability and security, it would seem logical to support any person who is interested in farming for our communities.
It’s hard to be a farmer no matter who you are. And while many point to the strong agricultural legacy of Latinos living in the United States – either from their home countries or from working in the fields – the ability to become farm owners and operators poses incredible added challenges. Without credit, access to banks, greenhouses, equipment, irrigation and all of the things necessary to be a farmer, they are at a clear disadvantage. In early 2007, Huerto de la Familia learned of a partnership opportunity with Heifer International to start a farm-based business with low-income Latino families. After an initial meeting with all participants in our organic garden instruction program, ten families initiated regular meetings to discuss the idea of creating a farm business. With the help a bilingual facilitator and local farmer, the families developed a three-year plan for a cooperative farm business for consideration by Heifer International. The Small Farmers Project (SFP) was awarded seed grant funding from 2008 to 2011, including support specifically earmarked for expenses related to small business start-up costs and a variety of educational trainings.
The Small Farmers’ Project, LLC
“The farm has been my classroom. Heifer International and Huerto de la Familia have changed my life. Now, I want to join Heifer and Huerto in changing the world.” — Margarito, President of SFP
The SFP carefully constructed a cooperative farm business model to unify families in partnership, forming an LLC in 2010 with bylaws. The Small Farmers’ Project sells organic strawberries by u-pick at their farm stand and sells blackcap raspberries through Organically Grown Company (OGC). OGC distributes strawberries and blackcap raspberries to stores from Ashland, OR to Seattle, WA. The farmers also have their berries processed into a fruit spread and puree that are available for sale to grocery stores and businesses. In accordance with the cooperative structure and bylaws, the farmers divide all earnings among themselves. The families use their earnings to invest in their children’s’ higher education, their homes, to pay off debt and to support family members in their home countries. The Small Farmers’ Project, LLC graduated from the organization in 2011 and is now an independent business. Huerto de la Familia believes that it can similarly produce positive impact for other low-income Latinos that have drive, determination, and good farm/food business opportunities through a micro-development program. Resources: 1. Census of Agriculture, 2007