Maria Reyes

Guerrero, Mexico

Farmer

I emigrated to the U.S. In 1989 when I was 16 years old. I was a minor and I struggled to find a job. I was also undocumented and because of that, no one wanted to hire me. I finally found a job harvesting strawberries. I have worked in this for twenty-five to twenty-eight years. After many years of working bent over with strawberries and with heavy harvesting machines, my health was declining. I lasted seven years working with these heavy machines and I had to quit because my health was getting worse.  

I started my own farm in 2016, but I took the ALBA program in 2015. was interested in learning how to grow vegetables here just like I did in Mexico. I did not know what to do and where to look for help. One day I found a person who took the ALBA program, and she said that at ALBA I could learn about agriculture. She told me that if I finished the ALBA program, they could give me a small piece of land to start working and to get familiar with the procedures. In California, there are a lot of laws and requirements and if you do not know them you are lost. I decided to take the program because my health was poor and I could not work for a big commercial company anymore. I was medicated. Sometimes, when I finished my shift, I had a lot of pain and sometimes I couldn’t sleep. It was the beginning of my interest in organic farming.

When I finished the ALBA program, they gave me a quarter acre and then two more acres a year later. The first year was difficult because I hardly made any money. There were no sales, and I had to grind the product into the soil. Kitchen Table Advisors have supported and coached me. They have connected me with other organizations, and helped me arrange to get help from the government. They also provided me with technical help, and access to new buyers and nonprofit organizations.  They are the reason I have succeeded. Some years, we think about quitting because this is not easy. Sometimes, we only make enough money to survive. Kitchen Table Advisor has given me the strength to keep working. I could grow my market and start direct sales. Without them, I would not be here.

My dream is to become a great farmer and to buy my own land. I want to plant vegetables. I like this place and that is why I am trying to expand my business. Maybe, in the future, my kids can follow my steps. I want to teach my kids that I could do that being an immigrant. I can do things that fill me with satisfaction. I help the local economy. I will do whatever I can to grow as a farmer. I am really grateful to Kitchen Table Advisor for all their help.

I would like to get more support from the government. Most of the time they support big businesses a lot. I think that small agricultural businesses do the same work as the big companies, so the support should be the same. I wish they do not care about our citizenship when making decisions to whom to support. At the end of the day, we all support the country and the economy and we provide healthier food and take care of the environment.