Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Visits Plant City Farm and Stresses USDA Commitment to Providing Equal Opportunities for All Producers
PLANT CITY, FLA., May 14, 2010- Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack toured Castillo Farms, a first generation family farm that has successfully worked with USDA programs to grow its operation and implement effective soil and water conservation practices. Secretary Vilsack's visit highlighted USDA's commitment to being a premier service provider for a wide diversity of agricultural producers.
"USDA is proud to work with farm families like the Castillos across the country to help them build successful farming operations that feed our nation and provide lasting environmental benefits to our children," said Secretary Vilsack. "USDA is committed to being a first-rate service provider to help producers of all backgrounds who form the strong core of our agricultural economy and rural communities."
The owners of Castillo Farms, Fidel and Hilda Castillo, are Mexican immigrants who began farming in the Plant City area 15 years ago. They began on a very small scale, 1-2 acres of leased land, for vegetables and strawberries. By 2004, they had purchased approximately 13 acres in Plant City to farm. The land had irrigation for only 4-5 acres supplied by a neighbor's well. In 2005, the Castillos applied to USDA's Farm Service Agency to receive funding to install their own well and irrigation system. At that time, they were farming 25 acres including leased land, but with the help of USDA were able to increase their farmable acreage to approximately 50 acres.
The Castillos' main crop is strawberries during the fall and winter. In the spring and summer they grow primarily vegetables. Over time, they have been able to improve soil and water quality and reduce soil erosion on their farm. Their desire to be good stewards of the land led them to partner with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with whom they developed a specific conservation plan for the farm.
Water management and conservation are of regional importance in southwest Florida and are high on the Castillo Farms' priorities list. As participants in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, they have received funding to renovate their existing deficient micro-irrigation system. To further improve water and air quality, the Castillo's follow the University of Florida's pest and nutrient recommendations and work with an NRCS Certified Crop Advisor.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD