Interview with Rogelio Bautista, June 2011, by Susanne Stover
What did you do before you became a farmer? I worked for another farmer, cutting lettuce, working with the vegetables.
What was your motivation for becoming a farmer in the United States? We liked being on the farm, and walking in the fields. We liked the farming lifestyle. The farmer we worked for let us plant our own food, and from there we started a farmstand where we lived.
In what way has your previous experience helped you in agriculture? In many ways Im using what I learned there, although I use it in a somewhat different way.
In the beginning as an NFDP farmer, what was the experience, tool or advice that helped you the most? The tractor they lent us and everything we learned in the class.
If you could go back and do over that first year of being an NFDP farmer, what would you change, or what do you do differently? Nothing, really. Everything we did well allowed us to get started.
Which benefit from being part of NFDP would you say has been the most important for you?
The classes, the support they gave us with farmers markets and the CSA, and the small loan. The contacts we make at conferences also help, with trainings on growing sustainably and without chemicals.
Where do you sell your products? For Greenmarket, Thursdays we're in Boro Park, Saturdays we're in Tribeca and Bay Ridge, as well as the Barryville farmers market near our farm. We also sell through a CSA with the Hells Kitchen Farm Project.
Who helps you on the farm? Yesenia and I, as well as three workers we have. They are in charge of weeding, and we all cut and wash. I take care of planting and sowing.
Whats the best part of being a farmer, in your experience? Being in the country, taking care of the vegetables, planting and harvesting.
What do you consider the greatest challenge or obstacle in agriculture? Keeping everything clean and orderly. Another challenge is buying the equipment you need so youre not fighting with rented machinery.
What keeps your customers coming back to your market stand? I think they come back because of our produce quality, but also because of our customer service and the individual attention we give them.
What about your farm are you most proud of? How we have grown, and what weve grown.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a farmer? We keep learning more about how to better grow our vegetables and take care of our markets every year, and how to produce higher quality products and increase sales.
What advice would you give to a new farmer? That they give it everything they've got, and that the first few years, its tough, but each year you learn more. Its hard work, but you shouldnt get discouraged.
What will your farm be like in ten years? It will be bigger!
What will be your next big investment in your farm? To buy land and buy the machinery wed like to invest in.