On a typical late summer afternoon in the Salinas Valley, a cool sea breeze moderates the temperatures that enable the specialty vegetables grown by Victor Cortes and Veronica Ceja to thrive: seven types of sweet peppers along with gherkins, cherry tomato mixes, and others are the hallmarks of La Granjita Orgánica. It’s a family farm that’s grown to four acres at ALBA, the organic farm incubator where they enrolled in 2013, and where they started farming the following year with loans provided by FarmLink.
Prior to ALBA, Victor had ably advanced from field worker to a ranch manager. Veronica transitioned from managing a beauty salon to working on the farm, where she enjoys her management responsibilities helping to grow the family business. Victor and Veronica successfully repaid four FarmLink loans from 2014-2017 as they grew La Granjita from one to four acres. In preparation for their transition out of the ALBA incubator, in 2018 the pair secured joint financing from FarmLink and the USDA Farm Service Agency to purchase an eleven-acre property and house in nearby Chualar Canyon. The family’s children and pets are enjoying the open spaces and share their parents’ pride in their new home.
Since their first loan from FarmLink, it was clear that Victor and Veronica are proactive and diligent in their management, and established an excellent repayment history. Their plan is to cultivate four acres on the new farm after a winter season of cover crops and irrigation improvements. Victor explains, “For us, our priority is to do a really good transition [from ALBA], and FarmLink, USDA, and ALBA are part of the process.” FarmLink’s partner Kitchen Table Advisors was also instrumental in helping the farm business with financial projections that have supported their growth and successful use of loan capital.
“We are always looking for products that will be consistently unique,” explains Victor, citing detailed crop plans which help to ensure that La Granjita Orgánica remains distinctive in the marketplace. Looking ahead, he is proactive, seeking assistance to manage their taxes, accounting and maintaining markets: “We need to be honest, to tell the truth, so people can help. If you are a beginning farmer like me, California FarmLink is one of the best options to help you get established.”