Can a farmer be successful without exploiting workers and land?
Javier Lara spent years as a migrant farmworker, and he knew things had to change. All across the region, he saw farmworkers exploited under harsh working and living conditions. He saw the dehumanization caused by racism and discrimination. And he experienced it, too.
Your gifts to Adelante Mujeres support farmers like Javier, whose dream of farming includes a deep respect for the land and the workers.
As a young adult, Javier worked the fields, following the harvest seasons of asparagus, strawberries, grapes, and cherries. He traveled from California all the way to Washington before landing a steady job on a Christmas tree farm in Oregon.
Growing up among the native Nahua community in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, Javier was always strongly connected to the earth. The whole community would join in planting and harvest celebrations to show gratitude and respect for the earth. And when the elders shared their stories, nature’s abundance always played a key role.
But when he arrived in the states, he felt that sacred connection disappear. No matter the crop, the farm, or location, Javier saw that the agriculture industry was built on the backs of its workers.
“We were treated like a piece of equipment,” he says. “People don’t care about your language, your culture, or your traditions. They just want your arms and your back.”
Although Javier left farm labor several years ago, his roots drew him back to the land. But this time, he wanted to farm on his own terms. He wanted to produce sustainable, healthy food, empower and learn from farmworkers, honor the earth with Nahua traditions, and share his knowledge and values. So he created his business, Anahuac Produce, with these goals in mind.
The biggest challenge was the uncertainty of something so ambitious.
“To be a farmer in this culture, there is a lot of risk involved,” said Javier. “Everything that we have, we earn with tears, sweat and sacrifice.”
The first two years were not easy. Plant starts and equipment were a huge investment. The first strawberry crop was a loss. And his three business partners dropped out.
He was discouraged, but he didn’t want to give up. He knew that to be successful, he needed to learn more about business management. Then, because of your support, Javier found the help he needed. He enrolled in our Sustainable Agriculture Program's Farm Business Development class.
With the help of this class, Javier was able to create a strategic business plan. He now knows what steps to take to sustain his business and has the tools he needs to stay on track.
Javier also learned how to think strategically about potential customers so that he can better predict how much of a certain product he will be able to sell.
“Now we are walking in the right direction,” says Javier, “even before they flower, our strawberries are all sold out.”
Because of your support, Javier’s business is now thriving. Javier sells at four farmers markets, featuring products like beets, kohlrabi, wild mushrooms, and sea beans that grow on coastal rocks. You can find him each week at Adelante’s Forest Grove Farmers Market where his passion for his work shines as he engages with his customers and teaches them about his specialty produce. He also sells produce to our Adelante Mujeres Distributor and to our CSA, an opportunity that gives him income he can count on throughout the growing season.
Javier continues to reach for his dreams in the way he runs his business. He farms with sustainable methods, practices the traditional Nahua rituals, and shares equipment and knowledge with neighboring farmers. He pays his workers by the hour, not by the pound. And he empowers them to really learn how to manage and respect the land.
Javier started his business with a dream of making change and, because of your generosity, he is realizing that dream.