The Small Farmers’ Project is a cooperative comprised of multiple low-income Latino families (thirteen adults) who have worked together since the spring of 2007 to plan and develop their own organic farm business. In 2007 the Executive Director approached all of the participating families in our program about an opportunity to create an agriculturally based business with the support of Heifer International. Ten families came together and planned the farm business for six months before submitting the plan to Heifer. The project received a three-year grant from Heifer from July 2008-June 2011.
The goal of this project is to manage and demonstrate a profitable farm business, which will increase each family’s income. Families will attain food security and learn methods of organic agriculture.
The farmers are growing organic strawberries and black cap raspberries on 6 acres outside of Eugene, and selling their fruit by U-pick, at the farm stand, and to Organically Grown Company, who is distributing the fruit to stores throughout Oregon and Washington.
The Small Farmers’ Project has been successful due to their own perseverance and numerous trainings they have received through local and regional trainers, Heifer International, the Washington State Extension Service, and Community to Community.
Heifer International, The National Immigrant Farming Initiative (NIFI) and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development have made it possible for farmers to receive these trainings, which are so crucial to their success.
A recent $5,000 grant from NIFI allowed the farmers to attend a training with Rosalinda Guillen, the Executive Director of Community to Community. Rosalinda is a widely recognized farm worker and rural justice leader. Ms. Guillen has worked within the labor movement with Caesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers of America and has represented farm workers in ongoing dialogues of immigration issues, labor rights, trade agreements, and strengthening the food sovereignty movement. She works to build a broader base of support for rural communities and sustainable agriculture policies that ensure equity and healthy communities for farm workers.
Community to Community (www.foodjustice.org) is a women-led, place based, grassroots organization working for a just society and healthy communities. They are committed to systemic change and to creating strategic alliances that strengthen local and global movements towards social, economic and environmental justice.
Rosalinda and Erin Thompson, also from Community to Community, provide cooperative development trainings for farm workers and others working in the cooperative model. Their guidance is vital to the success of the Small Farmers’ Project as they develop their leadership skills and ability to run a cooperative farm business.