Co-Op Gives Farm Workers Shot at Field of Own Dreams

Field hands get opportunity to start own businesses

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 31, 2013 12:17 PM CDT

(Newser) – Being an itinerant farm worker might be one of the most grueling ways to make a living in the country. But what if these workers could take their experience and turn it into a farm of their own? NPR profiles a cooperative in California's Salinas Valley that offers that otherwise out-of-reach opportunity. A general example: The co-op, ALBA Organics, is leasing a 3-acre strawberry farm to a longtime field worker named Raul Murillo at a subsidized rate. Murillo sells his organic berries back to ALBA, which sells them to local stores. Murillo keeps his cheap rental rate only for a few years, ideally using the time to create a profitable business.

"It gives them a chance to take a bit of control of their lives, and not have to work for somebody else," says an ALBA rep. Not that anyone is promising pie-in-the-sky success stories—the work is still grueling and the barriers to success high. ALBA, though, says 90 "graduates" have started their own farms since 2002. The story quotes a skeptic from the California Institute for Rural Studies who says that while the training is great, having relatively inexperienced people start their own businesses with all the risks that entails is troubling. The sentiment is countered by a 23-year-old from Mexico: "I came with the idea of doing something better." Click for the full story.

File photo of farm workers weeding strawberry fields in California's Salinas Valley.
File photo of farm workers weeding strawberry fields in California's Salinas Valley.   (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka, File)
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