Current participant in the Agripreneur Training Program says “Anything is possible.”

Rocky Casillas learning

Main Street Project’s Bridget Guiza interviews one of the current Agripreneur Training Program participants.

What was it like growing up in Mexico?

To survive in Mexico, my parents supported my 9 siblings and I by living off the farm. I am the third youngest amongst my siblings. My parents worked in the farm and so did all the kids and I. We fed the animals and also did chores around the house. We went to school, did our homework and had some time to play. We were normal kids.

In the farm we had chickens and hens, rabbits, two cows, fruits, plants, and corn. My father’s income would be used for our schooling and basic needs such as clothing and shoes.  When we lived off the farm we had enough for all of us. We weren’t rich but it was sufficient.  In Mexico, people struggle a lot financially, and children have to go to work early in life. In our family it was different; as kids we didn’t work, we just had responsibilities in the house and in the farm.

Early in the morning we would help milk and feed the cows, while my mother would make tortillas in the kitchen and my father would work in the field. We would go to school for six hours, come home to do homework and work in the farm again in the evening.  I was able to finish elementary, middle and one year of high school.

What motivated you to come to the United States?

I am a mother of three children; my eldest son is 18 and will be attending university soon, my other son is 15 and my daughter is 12. They are in Mexico now. I want a better life for them than I had and I want them to go to university. My heart is in Mexico, my children are in Mexico, but my effort and struggle is here. I want to provide for my family and keep them united, even though I’m not physically with them now, I want them to be together. Usually, when people migrate to the United States, they completely separate themselves from their families. I don’t want that. Though I’m here I talk with my family twice a day, in the morning and evening.

Thank God I found work here to provide for my family. I have struggled with a few things including learning the English language. I’m working on it though. I found work that is similar to what I have experience in; working on a ranch and in the kitchen. I want to be successful and get ahead. I want my kids to be proud of me, as I am proud of them. I also support my parents and my siblings with what I have.

Life here in the USA is a little tough but I believe everything is possible.

My husband came to Minnesota eight years before I did, then I came here to be with him and work. He has worked in ranches and has experience in veterinary work such as fertilization, insemination, and knows all about cow physiology and development. As a result of that we have a small cow ranch in Mexico and in the future we want to expand our ranch.

I wish my kids could come here with me and get an education but unfortunately they can’t come here. I believe we have to teach the younger generations good values and morals such as being understanding and loving toward others. I want to be able to educate my kids in taking care of the environment. I also would like them to be successful and independent, have self-confidence, be financially secure, and believe in honesty.

“Queremos superarnos.”
We want to excel.

What work experience do you have?

When I first moved here I worked in a ranch with other Mexican people. As a woman I wasn’t treated fairly at this ranch. I would get a lot of verbal and physical abuse from the men. They would insult me a lot. It was difficult at first but because I liked doing the work I stayed. We worked from 4 a.m. to 11 a.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Because I was always at the ranch I didn’t have time to go to school like I would have wanted to. Later we moved because of the cold and I was getting sick often. I then started working in a factory. There the supervisors who were Mexican-American didn’t treat us fairly. We had short breaks and they made us work harder.

Now I am a dishwasher at a nearby school cafeteria. I am very happy at this job. The relationship with the boss is great but the same issue exists with the Latino supervisors who treat you differently because you are Mexican. The students, however, are very kind and respectful. I would like to work in the kitchen and cook in the future. I have experience working in restaurants and in one particular Indian restaurant I had a great experience. The owners and workers treated me very well and treated me like family. The people here in Minnesota, in particular Northfield, are very kind. The land reminds me of Mexico. I like it here.  I’ve adapted to living here.

What motivated you to participate in Main Street Project’s ‘Agripreneur Training Program’?

I first heard of Main Street Project’s ‘Agripreneur Training Program’ through flyers that were posted around town. My husband took the flyers and suggested that we participate in it. We took it as an opportunity tonot only learn but also relate to the experience we already have. This is a chance to not only become owners of our own operation, and make money, but also consume what we raise and grow.  We also want people to know that although we are just two people, we are here and we can make a difference because we have a voice.

Back home, my grandparents drew fresh water from a well. Now, the companies contaminated the groundwater. Today we have to take care of the ecology more than before. I know we have to take care of the environment because that’s what surrounds us and without it we cannot survive. I believe Main Street Project shares this philosophy.

“Querer es poder.”
Anything is possible.

What have you liked about the training so far?

I like this training experience. I like taking care of the chickens and knowing that they depend on me; I like the contact with the animals.  Throughout this program, I have enjoyed being out in nature, and breathing fresh air. It’s not stressful; it’s relaxing.

I also have a great relationship with my husband and think we will be great business partners too. I like the idea of being my own boss in the future. I also think the system of poultry raised in confined animal feeding operations is not sustainable because it contaminates the land and waters. If we continue with this system, we are harming ourselves. We cannot continue with business as usual. I know factories produce a lot of contamination.

From what I know and have experience working in the ranch, manure is not waste, it is fertilizer that can be returned to the land to continue the cycle for growing plants, such as corn. My philosophy is to stay away from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We have to be the change. We have to educate the younger generations in taking care of their natural environment. By eating healthy food there are certain diseases that can be cured, like some types of cancers, and diabetes.

“Me gusta el contacto con la naturaleza.”
I love spending time in nature.

What are your next steps?

I believe everyone can play their part in caring for the environment. We will have barriers but I believe we can achieve what we set our minds to. I want to be independent and successful. Being part of this program has been amazing. My husband and I work well as a team and are very supportive of each other.

Back home, services and products are getting more expensive while the salary stays static. Farmers suffer the most because they invest a lot of their resources in their crops and are outcompeted.

However, I always like to see the positive side of things. This program will be our stepping-stone into prosperity. After this training, my husband and I plan on raising another flock with Main Street Project to gain even more experience.  I want to provide fresh food for our community and help change the way we think about food. In the future I would like to take Main Street Project’s model to our place back home in Mexico and work with our children. As of now, our children have been helping us back home with the materials necessary to build a chicken coop.

Any last words of wisdom?

I believe we need to communicate with the community. We need to take flyers, produce videos and show it to the people. I believe our women and our mothers can be at the forefront of changing our food system. This is about public health. I personally like to take care of myself. Sometimes I walk to work and to the farm as well and I like eating fresh and healthy food.  I believe we need to show everyone how eating healthy and being part of a healthy sustainable food system can benefit everyone. We can all contribute something. Anything.

“Todos podemos poner nuestro granito de arena.”
We can all contribute something.

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