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BIPOC farmers try to level the field in Skagit County

Skagit Gleaners is providing $25,000 in grants to minority farm owners to help them grow.

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Reyna Flores learned to farm from her father in Oaxaca, Mexico as a little girl.

She always hoped to bring her love of the land to America.

"Yes, it's my dream," she said, through an interpreter.

Reyna and her husband Bartolo toiled in the fields of California and Washington for years before saving enough money to start their own one-acre farm called Verduras Organicas Mexicanas in Mount Vernon.

"It's a little hard," Reyna said, "but the community likes my products and that's what keeps me going."

According to the US Department of Labor, 83% of the farmworkers in this country are Hispanic while 3% of that population are farm owners. 

There is now a program in the Skagit Valley working to change that.

Skagit Gleaners is working with four BIPOC farms and is using $25,000 in grant money from the Skagit Community Foundation to purchase their produce.

That food is then provided to the low income in the community, many of them migrants themselves.

The goal is to build a healthy migrant community both physically and financially.

"BIPOC folk should not just be the middle point between food on our tables and the system," Skagit Gleaners Executive Director Morgan Curry said. "They are business owners in this industry and they should be able to profit from it."

Skagit Gleaners work with the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, which helps people start their own farms and apply for small business loans and make names for themselves.

At her neat, colorful farm stand, Reyna proudly shows off her products.

She points to fresh from the vine tomatillo morado, epazote, calabaza Mexicana and several varieties of chili peppers.

The family grows produce that's very difficult to find in Washington.

Reyna says the $500 a week from Skagit Gleaners is allowing her to expand her stand from three days per week to seven -- quite literally growing her small farm.

She says her father called from Mexico to congratulate her on her success and with the support of Skagit Gleaners, she hopes to open up even more farm stands.

Her humble dream is becoming a reality.

Reyna smiles broadly in the midday sun and says, "Me siento feliz."

"I feel happy."

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