(Apolinar next to bean plants at his farm in Watsonville, California)
Farmers are an essential part of their communities. Apolinar “Poli” Yerena, owner of Yerena Farms, has been farming organically in the Watsonville community since 2010. For Poli, farming is more than a business, it is a way of life.
Poli first learned to grow strawberries from a Japanese farmer he worked for in his mid-20s. Back then, he did not know he would go on to own his own farming business, also growing strawberries. However, his interest in growing food came easily as he was surrounded by agriculture both in his home state of Jalisco, Mexico, and in his children’s hometown of Watsonville, California.
I first met Poli at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, where I was looking to connect with organic producers to participate in CCOF’s labor survey. Every week, Poli and his wife commute from Watsonville to San Fransisco to sell their organic strawberries. Like many small-scale and family farmers, Poli has been struggling to keep up with farming costs and is often pushed to find new opportunities to keep his farm afloat. Now 71 years old, he continues to grow organically because he believes in growing food that is good for his community and good for the land. While he has faced challenges in keeping his farm afloat, he continues to persevere because farming is what he knows best, and giving to his community is what he loves most.
Not only is Poli a farmer, but he is also an active community member. Every year, Poli and his family donate and volunteer with an organization called Raíces y Cariño. This organization serves farmworking communities in the neighboring Pajaro Valley and offers resources including mental health services, maternal support groups, and youth art classes. Poli believes that his role as a farmer extends beyond the farm and into the community that he is a part of. He embodies the essential role farmers play in their communities.
We are still looking to survey organic producers and are offering a $25 stipend to organic producers who participate. The online survey should take no more than 30 minutes to complete and can be found at https://forms.office.com/r/fV3jYLMaK5.
Please contact Jessica González at email@example.com if you have any questions or concerns.