Meet Guillermo Lazaro, AFT California Farmer Relief Fund Recipient
Before the coronavirus pandemic struck this spring, Guillermo Lazaro was on his way to becoming a successful new farmer. He operates a three-acre farm plot named ALD & Y Organic Farm outside of Salinas, California, with a mix of colorful salad greens, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, kale, chard, and other crops. He sells half his organic produce directly to consumers via farmers markets and restaurants; half is sold wholesale.
Guillermo is in his fourth year of the five-year Farmer Education and Enterprise Development program operated by Agriculture and Land-Based Learning Association, or ALBA. Its mission is “to create economic opportunity for limited-resource and aspiring organic farmers through land-based education in the heart of the Salinas Valley.” This Central California region is known as the “salad bowl to the world,” because of its large and rich agricultural heritage. ALBA was also the site of AFT’s inaugural Underserved Farmers Outreach Program about a year ago, where ALBA, AFT, and Farmers Veterans Coalition hosted hands-on training for farmer trainees on effective crop irrigation.
“I grew up in a farming family in Oaxaca, Mexico,” Guillermo explains. “For many years, I worked hard as a farm laborer after we immigrated to the United States. When I decided to have my own farm, ALBA gave me the opportunity to receive technical training and lease this farmland. It was all going great and I was really happy to learn this career, until the pandemic caused this new situation.”
Although his wholesale business has remained steady, Guillermo’s direct-sale business at farmers markets and restaurants was slashed in half. “This loss in business has made it very difficult to pay our farmworkers,” he says. “We still have to pay rent and other expenses. It has been challenging to catch up. That’s why I was grateful to hear about the AFT Farmer Relief Fund.”
After learning about the AFT Farmer Relief Fund from a farmer friend, Guillermo applied and was accepted as one of 1,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide to receive $1,000 grants each. Every dollar contributed to the AFT Farmer Relief Fund was donated directly to a direct-sale farmer or rancher who has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Although applications are now closed, AFT has committed to continuing the effort to support more of the over 5,000 farmers who applied.
“I was very grateful to AFT and immediately jumped on the chance,” he says. “There are many ways we can use this money right now, but we decided we are going to fix our tractor.”
Guillermo said he wants people to think about all the hard work and time that goes behind the food arriving at their farmers markets. “There are many steps involved, and you’re not paying most of the costs. Please keep this in mind and keep supporting your farmers.”
Hear other stories from farmers and ranchers across the nation who have benefited from your kind donations to AFT’s Farmer Relief Fund.