Case study: Justino Borja

Farm and Food
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Justino Borja is the co-owner and co-operator of Las Gemelas near Columbus, Nebraska.

What I produce: chiles, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, and green beans.

Before the farm: "I was working at the local meat processing plant, but I wanted to use my farming experience because that was our livelihood in Mexico—living off the land and tending to our animals."

Agriculture and kids: “I especially like teaching my kids that agriculture is just as productive as any other profession.”

Soil and climate: "My wife and I plant and harvest our vegetables. We try to experiment with new vegetables, especially by understanding how we can get the most out of our soil. For example, in Mexico, we plant certain things that cannot be planted here. Learning and understanding our soil and climate is important because it helps me understand when to plant my produce."

Growing in my role as a farmer and father: "I believe that when you work as a group, motivation grows and it helps me to focus on the task at hand. I love working with my family, teaching our kids how to plant the seeds, and every time we visit our land I feel the kids are learning. At school, my son explains to his classmates that vegetables are not grown at the store, but instead come from plants. My son sees how I work the land. He has planted, tended, and harvested the plants himself. I am hoping he will continue to help me as he gets older."

Help from the Center for Rural Affairs: “Attending the Center’s workshops helped a lot. I wouldn’t have known how to plant garlic if I did not attend the farm visit workshop to Erstwhile Farms. I witnessed how that farm allows animals to feed off the land, unlike commercial farmers. I was impressed with the practicality of it all and the willingness to explain it to the group. The Center guided me on how to start my business and gave me examples of how to be successful with my new farm.”

Latino Beginning Farmer Project at the Center for Rural Affairs is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture – U.S. Department of Agriculture through the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

The Center for Rural Affairs offers one-on-one technical assistance to farmers in networking, education, and leadership, as well as learning circles and group trainings on business and finance, production, and marketing. These services are offered in both Spanish and English.

Staff contributing to these case studies include: Kylie Kai, Rhea Landholm, Kirstin Bailey, Vicky Espinoza, and Liz Daehnke.