A 2019 Year-End Letter From Our Executive Director!


Our is not the task of reaching out to fix the entire world at once, but of reaching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Dear Amigas y Amigos,

Your support has helped us create spaces where immigrant families can thrive. The gardens are a physical manifestation of our community’s commitment to welcoming immigrant families. Our focus on serving immigrant families here in our very own local community is what makes our programs succeed. It’s heartbreaking knowing immigrant families across the country continue to be targeted, but I believe the way we can create the most change is by making our own community truly safe and welcoming for newcomers. Who better understands and cares for our community than those of us who live here?

In a world riddled with fear and hurt, our gardens are a place of hope and healing. Program members and volunteers find solace in the gardens, grounding themselves in the soil of the earth. One program member, Juan, visits his garden plot multiple times a day to relieve anxiety and stress. A team from the Life Changes program at the Eugene Mission help us maintain our Churchill Community Garden with weekly work parties. Team members share that the garden is their favorite place to volunteer on their path out of homelessness and to recovery. We are honored to be a part of many healing stories. Your donation today will help us create even more spaces in our community for transformational change.

You have helped make Huerto a leading organization in Eugene. I am honored to invite you to celebrate all we have achieved by attending the 2020 State of the City where Mayor Lucy Vinnis will be awarding Huerto de la Familia the 2019 Community Award for our work around food equity, economic empowerment, and our contributions to the City of Eugene’s Climate Action Plan. You are invited to join us on Wednesday, January 8th, at 5:30PM in the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

I am also excited to share with you that I was invited to participate in the University of Oregon’s TEDxUOregon 2019 Event. TED talks are conferences where speakers present on innovative “ideas worth spreading.” You can watch my TEDx talk “How Community Gardens Preserve Culture and Grow Hope” by CLICKING HERE. And because we are all human, you’ll even get to see the part where where I drop my microphone!


Nuestras Raíces y el Arte: In partnership with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art we held an amazing cultural event this summer called Nuestras Raíces y el Arte. More than 400 community members came together for a celebration of the gardens, Latino art, culture, and heritage.

Brand New Tool Shed: Thanks to a City of Eugene neighborhood matching grant we now have a fully stocked tool shed at the Bethel Community Garden. There is also a mural painted by Esteban Camacho with support from program and community members. It was initially part of the art museum event but is now permanently housed on the side of the tool shed adding beauty to the garden.

Día del Agricultor: More than 30 program members took a bus up to Sherwood, Oregon for the first ever full-day, Spanish-language farm conference. In total, more than 100 farmers from across the State of Oregon joined together for education workshops and community-building.

Seed Saving: We held a documentary screening on seeds as communal property, and we have been hosting conversations around seed saving as a way to preserve traditional varieties of crops over generations.

2nd Annual Fiesta de Cosecha: This fun event was an opportunity for program members to build community while celebrating all the hard work that went into their harvests. In keeping with our theme of peer-led learning, both of the garden workshops at this event were taught by program members.

Medicinal Plants & Salve-Making Workshop: Program members learned the medicinal properties of calendula, plantain, comfrey, and stinging nettle, with an opportunity to smell, taste, and touch fresh samples of each. Program members were inspired to hold further events where they can share their own knowledge of different plants with each other. Your donation to Huerto de la Familia will help us continue to expand these empowering learning opportunities.


Marcelina is a long time member of Huerto de la Familia’s Garden Program. She has multiple garden plots at our Churchill Community Garden, and she is an expert gardener of plant varieties from the Oaxacan region of Mexico including chipil, flor de perrito, and chile de agua. Marcelina is thankful to be able to grow chipil, a unique herb that is an essential ingredient in Oaxacan cuisine. For her this herb is more than a food.

Para comer… ósea para recorder los de allá, de Oaxaca.

Translation: To eat… in order to remember those from there, from Oaxaca.”

Your gifts provide community members like Marcelina with more than a plot of land. They provide an opportunity to maintain connection to their homeland and loved ones. Giving families a chance to preserve cultural traditions around foods shows them that their culture and traditions matter: that they matter.


16 businesses graduating from the Cambios Business Class: The new businesses include a photographer, translator, jewelry-maker, food truck, contractors, yard care, and more. Please visit huertodelafamilia.org/support-our-entrepreneurs to see some of the business graduates and hire them for services.

Legislative Advocacy: Cambios program members helped advocate for a law that will require business incorporation documents to be translated into the top five languages for people who are not fluent in English. Cambios members wrote letters to their representatives asking for their support on this law. They were successful, and this law has already gone into effect!

Partnership with Eugene Public Library: Huerto is partnering with our local library to provide Spanish-language business workshops to the broader community. Our first workshop, on business contracts, will take place in January.

Taqueria D.F.: Cambios graduates, René and Mariela, spent 2019 receiving technical assistance to navigate the complex regulations around food trucks. After an entire year of applications and inspections, they are finally approved to open their food truck! Their business is called Taqueria D.F. after D.F. the capital of Mexico, and their slogan is “La capital de los tacos” – “The capital of the tacos.” Their food is delicious, and there will be more information on where to find them as they launch. Your donation today will make it possible for more folks like René and Mariela to follow their dreams!

As we enter the new year, I am warmed by the ways our local community cares deeply about helping immigrant families thrive. Your gifts to Huerto de la Familia helped us create a beautiful family by assisting and improving the lives of so many in nuestra comunidad (our community). Please make a year-end donation to ensure Huerto’s powerful programming continues to grow and thrive. You can donate by CLICKING HERE. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season and a 2020 full of growth and passion. Thank you for your generosity.

Marissa Elena Zarate
Executive Director

How community gardens preserve culture and grow hope. Marissa Zarate | TEDxUOregon

This talk explores the magic that occurs when immigrant families come together to build community while growing foods that preserve their culture. Marissa Elena Zarate is the Executive Director of Huerto de la Familia, an organic gardening and small business start-up nonprofit for immigrant families in Eugene, Oregon. A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Law, Marissa also holds a B.A. in Peace Studies from Chapman University. As an attorney, her work focused on immigrant and tenant legal rights. In her current role, she helps create opportunities for families to increase their health, and build community by growing their own organic food. The daughter of a Costa Rican immigrant mother and Mexican-American father, Marissa is now a passionate advocate and leader focused on environmental and human rights issues in the Latinx community. When she isn’t brainstorming innovative programming, Marissa can be found exploring Oregon’s natural wonders with her husband José, stepson Alex, and trusty canine, Gracie. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Spotlight: Story Corp Interview Marissa Zarate and Guadalupe Quinn

“If I could go back 30 years and re-do this work, I would do it very differently. I would be more intentional in my balance… I learned that there is a way to do this work in a way that’s healthy because we have to be able to sustain ourselves.”
– Guadalupe Quinn
What does it mean to commit to social justice for the long haul? In this intergenerational interview, Marissa Zarate, Executive Director of the grassroots nonprofit, Huerto de la Familia, interviews community activist, Guadalupe Quinn about her lifelong dedication to advocating for immigrant families and social justice in Eugene, Oregon. Click the link below to listen.