Editor’s Note: Here’s another important story from Civil Eats highlighting a roadmap for manifestation of the American dream. Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) in Salinas, California is led by development director Chris Brown. He says although the federally funded farming program “welcomes anyone,” the organization “focus and greatest impact has been with immigrant farmworkers, mostly from Mexico and Central America.”
California’s farmworkers face untold barriers accessing the land, capital, and training needed to strike out on their own. For 20 years, ALBA has been slowly changing the landscape for this important group of aspiring growers.
BY AMY MAYER
JANUARY 18, 2024
Herlinda Huipe and her husband Carmelo Rojas operate Tierra HR Organic Farm on California’s Central Coast. It’s small, so they both still work part time on larger farms, primarily picking strawberries. But the couple has recently hit a milestone: During their busiest harvest days, they’ve had to hire people to help with their celery crop.
“They are people who are really fast at cutting it,” Rojas said, “and we pay them as contractors.”
The catalyst that led Huipe and Rojas to segue from farmworkers to farm owners is the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) in Salinas, California, which for more than two decades has offered classes, on-farm training, land, equipment, and business support to aspiring organic vegetable farmers. ALBA has received over $15 million in support from federal grants, local and national foundations, and individual donors in the last 20 years, and more than 220 businesses have launched with the organization’s support since 2001.
In an impact report published last fall, ALBA development director Chris Brown found that more than 10 new farms get started each year and four to six expand beyond ALBA’s land.
Brown also learned that among the 121 alumni farmers who responded to a survey, 77 are still operating a farm business. Meanwhile, others are working in farm-support roles, as intermediaries between farm owners and product buyers and as administrators or business support staff for other farms. Recently, Brown said, he spoke with one alum who told him “she is helping farmers with marketing because, she said, ‘she’s not as good of a grower.’”
ALBA welcomes anyone, Brown said, but in this region known for growing heavily labor-dependent strawberries and leafy greens, the organization’s focus and greatest impact has been with immigrant farmworkers, mostly from Mexico and Central America. “They want to get away from that lifestyle and farm on their own,” he said.
Huipe and Rojas had the dream but until a friend told them about ALBA, they had no idea how they would even begin the transition. “We are really so grateful to ALBA, and all the people there.” Rojas said recently in Spanish. “They are friendly and always help us.”
Read the full article and more about the road to organic farming by Amy Mayer HERE.