Most often farms are truly family enterprises, and Bertha Magaña stands out as a strong example of how professional experience, family knowledge, and partnerships have built a farm enterprise. Bertha has the distinction of being FarmLink’s first female mortgage borrower. She exercised a first right of refusal in her lease, which FarmLink helped her develop, and purchased 12.3 acres of farmland in early 2016.
Magaña Farms, located in Las Lomas, was started by Bertha in 2011 after more than 30 years’ experience in agriculture working for other people. At the time, her husband, Heriberto, was working for a local nursery, and in 2012 he joined the business as a partner with Bertha. Their experience covers nursery production, conventionally grown strawberries, and a small-scale organic vegetable and berry farm. Prior to starting her own farm, Bertha worked for seven years with a brother who is a successful grower of vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. Another brother is a grower representative for a produce shipper focused on organic, biodynamic, and fair-trade practices.
Bertha’s farming roots run deep, and it’s always been a family endeavor. She grew up on the family farm in Mexico, and after the family emigrated, her father was a farm manager for local farming companies in the Monterey Bay region. Today all but one of her five siblings are engaged in agriculture. Her daughter Amalia has become a minority partner in Magaña Farms, and has more than 12 years’ experience in payroll and accounts receivable with local berry companies. Amalia and her sister Silvia manage the finances for Magaña Farms, their brother maintains the equipment, and Bertha’s brothers provide help with growing practices and information on markets.
It’s clear that Bertha receives a lot of moral, technical, and business support from her family. FarmLink and its partners have also invested in making a successful enterprise with Bertha and her family. The USDA Farm Service Agency joined FarmLink in financing Bertha’s farm purchase, and Kitchen Table Advisors has provided in-depth assistance in business development. Of course she faces challenges like so many farmers, primary among them access to labor; she held back on planting some land this year due to limited labor.
Bertha is particularly excited to be establishing perennial crops on her own land. She’s planted prickly pear cactus for nopales and tunas, the latter being the sweet fruits, and she’s also establishing tejocotes, a type of hawthorn that’s the main ingredient used in ponche, a traditional Mexican hot fruit punch served during the holidays.
Each growing season has been progressively better for Magaña Farms, and we hope to join her to look back on and celebrate a good year with a cup of her ponche.