Feed the soil, and the soil will feed the plant.
Álvaro has been farming since he was a child in Mexico. For as long as he can remember, growing vegetables has been his true passion. He and his wife, Edna, immigrated to the U.S. over 20 years ago in search of a better life and more opportunities. They now own a small, sustainable farming operation on land that they lease in Beaverton, Oregon. Álvaro grows a beautiful array of vibrant, organic vegetables. He's especially known for his beets, carrots, cilantro, lettuce, and bell peppers.
When they first began successfully growing produce, they gave away all of their harvests to local churches. Although bringing in extra money for his family would be helpful, Álvaro began this venture simply because he loves doing it. But when they got the opportunity to sell their produce through our CSA and Distributor program, they realized that farming could not only be an enjoyable experience, but it could help support their family.
On Mondays, Álvaro and Edna carry large tubs of their freshly harvested produce into our CSA space. Álvaro gently sets down a few buckets of lush basil and a mouth-watering aroma fills the entire room. Edna peeks into the first tub to find perfect stalks of crispy kale. From here, the fresh herbs and vegetables will be distributed across Portland and Washington County communities. Some of the produce ends up in schools, restaurants, or small food businesses, while others get delivered to the doorsteps of our individual CSA members. It doesn't get more local than that.
Liliana Morgan, our Distributor Sales and Marketing Coordinator, starts weighing vibrantly green tomatillos and plump lemon cucumbers. By connecting with local restaurants, schools, and CSA members in our community, Liliana ensures food grown by Latino-owned, sustainable farms gets out into the community.
Liliana explains why she loves working at Adelante. "I love seeing how proud our participants are to be providing healthy food to members of the community, especially knowing that we focus on reaching low-income clients. For many of the farmers we work with, growing food and working with plants is not only a means of supporting themselves financially, but a healing practice through which they find great joy."
Álvaro didn't always know the intricacies of sustainable agriculture, which can be complex and sometimes overwhelming when starting out. He knew he wanted to grow pesticide-free produce, but since the farming techniques he learned in Mexico involved using chemical treatments, he was struggling to keep pests off of his plants without using pesticides.
Then he heard about our Sustainable Agriculture class and he immediately signed up. Since Álvaro only speaks limited English, he says having the class be conducted in Spanish was a tremendous help.
Alejandro Tecum runs our Sustainable Agriculture program where he teaches a 14-week class to local Latinos who aspire to own a sustainable farming business, or who would just like to start a vegetable garden in their back yard. In the class, he covers everything from how to maintain proper soil to how to market their final product. Alejandro explains, "In Sustainable Agriculture, soil is the most important component in the food production. Our motto is "feed the soil, the soil feeds the plant."
"Sustainable Agriculture is important because through it we teach and show people how to grow healthy, delicious, and fresh vegetables. So while they are providing food for their families and high quality produce for their customers (if they have a farm business), they are also taking care of the environment." says Alejandro.
Instead of using chemicals to keep pests away, Álvaro now plants flowers nearby that deter the pesky insects. Although his operation is small, he has his sights set on someday saving up enough money to buy his own farmland and turning his passion of sustainable farming into a full-time career.
The education Álvaro received in our Sustainable Farming class enabled him to take his love of gardening and turn that into the ability to help feed his own community, as well as support his family, all while using farming techniques that are kind to the earth. Much like taking the time to cultivate nutrient-rich soil in a garden, education will always be an invaluable investment in the future for budding entrepreneurs like Álvaro.