Along the coastline of Oaxaca, a southern state of Mexico, lies a mountain range called Sierra Madre del Sur. In the fog-draped trees, Emilia Santos Perez was raised in a pueblo called San Pedro el Alto in the region of Pochutla. The predominant language and people of the area are Zapotec, one indigenous group of sixteen distinct groups known in Oaxaca
At 15, Emilia arrived in California, where she began working seasonally in the fields cultivating berries, and during the off-season, she would sell homemade tamales and tortillas. Working with the land, she realized her passion for organic food, noting that flavors are more robust when fruits and vegetables are grown without chemicals. Through her connections in the community, Emilia became involved with the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), a farmer incubation program in the Salinas Valley that supports farmworkers to become organic farm owners.
As a grantee of the CCOF Foundation’s Future Organic Farmer program, and with the assistance of ALBA, Emilia is on the road to fulfilling her dreams. She envisions owning a plot of land where she will grow varieties of kale, onions, fennel, and lettuce. Her business will extend beyond the United States and become international. And just as her crops and business will grow, so will her two daughters. Emilia wishes to offer her children a bountiful future where they can pursue any educational path or career. She knows her children will say their mom fought to give them every opportunity possible.
In many ways, Emilia has found pieces of her homeland in California. She remains close to the coastline in Hollister, but instead of being on a mountain top, she lives in the valley along the Diablo Range. The sun-drenched valley offers an abundant climate for plants and dreams to grow.
To find out more about the Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund from the CCOF Foundation, please visit our website.