A THANKSGIVING STORY

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Meet the Farmers:

Gonzalez Farm

Just Food supports the livelihoods of local farmers by connecting them with farmers’ market, farm-to-food pantry, and Community Supported Agriculture programs in NYC. We work with farmers from different backgrounds, from families who have owned their land since the 1600s to new and recent immigrant farmers.

In 2008, Just Food began working with Claudio Gonzalez through our Community Supported Agriculture and City Farms Markets programs. Claudio farms on 16 acres in New York State’s Black Dirt region. His children, Lucy, Alex, Sandi, Javier, and Rafael help out on the farm, and in good years, Claudio can afford to hire part-time farm hands.

Claudio grew up in the Puebla, Mexico, helping out on his father’s farm, where they grew traditional crops such as corn, peppers, beans, summer squash, tomatoes, and cilantro for their family. After graduating from high school, Claudio worked in factories in Mexico City before coming to the United States in the 1990s where he began establishing roots in New York, working in factories, learning English, and starting a family. In 2004, Claudio began his own farm business after spending 2 years working on other farms.

“I farm because I like it; I like it because I’m free and working outside. This work is something that everyone needs to survive—we need food to live. I love the countryside, I eat my plants, and each day I see them grow and it makes me feel great.”

Claudio began by selling in New York City at farmers’ markets, but market income alone didn’t provide the economic stability or opportunity to expand his business. Just Food connected Claudio to his first of three CSAs in 2008 and continues to provide training and support to Claudio and his CSA groups.

“CSA is great for me because my members really like that the vegetables are fresh, grown naturally, and taste good. It’s really important because CSA members pay me in the spring when I don’t have money from markets to get my season started with plants, labor, and equipment.”

2011 has been a tough year for many area farmers, from an extraordinarily wet spring to historic flooding from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee late this summer. Claudio faced these challenges and more, and like other Just Food farmers this year, learned the true value of CSA and a direct connection with his customers.

Of the 16 acres he farms, only 3 remained viable after the storms. While Claudio struggled to deliver the remaining crops to his CSAs and markets, his New York City community reached out to support him: his CSAs raised money for the farm and his market customers helped with storm clean up through a volunteer trip organized by Just Food.

“I really appreciate all that Just Food is doing. This year was good until the rains came. I didn’t think it would ever be this bad. I lost all of my summer crops and many winter squash—eggplant, peppers, okra. Hopefully next year will be better.”