The Ruiz family operates a socially disadvantaged Hispanic/Latinx family farm, Products from Paradise. While father Salvador Ruiz is the primary farmer, everyone in the family helps with the work. His daughter and son help with logistics, delivery, and acquiring new stores to carry their products.
Salvador’s farm story began in Mexico, where his father and grandfather were farmers. He grew up farming and when he came to the United States at the age of 15, he continued farming. Farming was intially a hobby for him, but in about 2014, he started his own farm business. He and his family have worked hard to build a successful farm business growing specialty crops, primarily nopales cactus, an edible cactus and very niche specialty crop.
The Ruiz family currently farms on about six acres of leased land and sell their produce directly to consumers. Eventually, they would like to focus on value-added products, dehydration of their cactus product, powder products, and pickled products. The family has a lot of ideas but see the value in taking things step by step. For example, research and development, and funding, are necessary before moving forward with a new line of products from their nopales. They also have plans to expand the farm size two acres at a time.
Salvador is happy about the farm being able to provide his children with a valuable entrepreneurial experience that allows them to gain useful skills and learn productive ways to operate their farm business
One of the family’s greatest challenges is managing labor costs. While they do try to keep labor costs within the family, they sometimes need to hire temporary labor to manage an increase in weeds. An innovative solution has been to use weed mat rolls to manage weeds on the farm.
Another challenge is competition. Their competition is an imported cactus product and the market is basically set by the imported product. The Ruizes want to invest in hoop houses to extend their growing season, which will help increase production and profits. The family is working with NRCS to receive a hoop house through the NRCS High Tunnel Initiative. They have applied every year, but have so far been unsuccessful since the NRCS grant programs focuses on participants that own their farm land or hold longer leases.
Yet another challenge is that the Products from Paradise Farm is not certified organic, although the farmers use organic methods to grow their crops and manage the farm. The Ruizes are discussing how to educate their customers about the value that organic strategies and practices bring to their products. More knowledge is requested about organic farming systems that benefit their crops and environment and impact farm savings.
The Ruizes value education, low costs, and providing high-quality food to the community, while remaining profitable and manageable as they progress and expand, all of which they are achieving.
The family encourages farmers, especially new farmers, to be persistent, not quit, be honest, be creative and organized, not be afraid to experiment, to establish relationships, and when one door closes to look for another open door.