Fifteen years ago, Rigoberto Bucio worked on a small organic farm before entering the farm business incubator at the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA). He was a young farm worker proud to be part of a community of organic farmers in the Salinas Valley. With ALBA’s training, FarmLink’s financing, and business advising from Kitchen Table Advisors, he has started and maintained his family farm operation over the past decade.
Within four years of starting at ALBA he secured a long-term lease on nearby acreage. Today he operates on the same 17 acres, growing organic strawberries, kale, cauliflower and celery. When asked what thoughts he would share with other beginning farmers, he replied, “Keep going and don’t stop the first time you fail. It takes many years to really know whether you want to keep going in this business.”
On a midsummer morning, his farm lay under thick low clouds, the marine layer generated by the cold waters of the Monterey Bay about 15 miles away, creating good conditions for the hurried pace. The crew, including his father Joaquin, who he takes great pride in working alongside, were cutting and packing celery and kale for delivery before the skies cleared. Before long everyone would be working under the midday sun.
Rigoberto is affable and can swiftly strike a philosophical tone. “If I hadn’t gotten into this business ten years ago, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said, smiling, as he gestured to indicate that he’s overseeing his crew during this interview. “Before [operating my own farm] I made a lot less. Apart from the money and the satisfaction it gives me, it opens your mind. You’re aware of another person you didn’t know was in you,” he explained.
Bucio Organic Farm uses annual FarmLink operating loans to invest in the upcoming season: purchasing transplants, making lease payments in months with low cash flow, and sustaining his labor force. “I use the loan capital to put people on the land and have them produce, always with good intentions,” he said. When asked to share his aspirations, he replied, “My first goal is to be very tight with my business practices. And to have the people I need to have in the field, and offer them the best I can. My dream is to have my own land one day. I can’t get it out of my mind.”
[Quotes translated from Spanish. Story adapted from California FarmLink’s Annual Report]