Category Archives: Agriculture

Natives Grow in Popularity

Mike Heep surrounds himself with hardy native plants known to attract birds and butterflies. (VBR)

Mike Heep spends his days cultivating native plants and educating people about the benefits of using indigenous vegetation in gardens and landscaping projects. Native plants are drought and freeze tolerant, and attract the birds and butterflies for which the Rio Grande Valley is famous. In 1964, Heep moved from San Antonio to the Harlingen area with his family. He operates Heep’s Nursery on the same two-acre tract where he grew…

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Saddle Up For the RGV Livestock Show

The Livestock Show provides area youth with the opportunity to compete for prizes in exhibiting their projects.

It’s time for the 80th edition of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show, as the iconic event continues to showcase its connections to area communities. “Ask anyone who has grown up in Mercedes and the Rio Grande Valley, and they will name the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show & Rodeo as one of the best-known and attended events of each year,’’ said Beatrice de Leon Edwards, a local historian and…

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Feeding the Cattle Industry

A worker rakes hay into rows where it will dry for several days before it is baled. (VBR)

The Lone Star State is the nation’s number one producer of cattle, with Nebraska and Kansas following. Texas had an estimated 12.5 million heads of cattle in 2018, according to latest statistics issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And beef consumption per capita is at nearly 80 pounds in the United States. With that said, the portions of meat a person consumes at a dinner or at a restaurant…

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DA Focuses on Human Trafficking in Agriculture

Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. announces the Buffett-McCain Institute Initiative to Combat Modern Slavery grant.

Hidalgo County will soon have a Human Trafficking Unit created by Criminal District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. The unit will address forced labor in the agricultural sector, being the first of its kind in the United States. The unit is possible due to funding via a Buffett-McCain Institute Initiative to Combat Modern Slavery grant of $356,783. “In forced labor, workers are often tied to the employers who hold them hostage to the job…

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Farm an Organic Family Affair

Susanne and Bud Cooke discuss the raising of the canopy on a greenhouse at Acacia Farms. (VBR)

The scene was reminiscent of an old-fashioned barn raising, where friends would turn out to help a farmer build a new barn, and then celebrate the accomplishment. But on this Saturday in December, what was being raised was a new covering for a damaged greenhouse at Acacia Farms in Bayview. The greenhouse, some 30 feet by 130 feet, lost its plastic covering in a freak windstorm earlier in the year…

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Organic Growth of a Business

Russon Holbrook left an international banking and financial services career to return to the Rio Grande Valley and help build the family business. (VBR)

Russon Holbrook lived the go-go life of international banking and financial services. It meant many days away from his family, managing investment portfolios and relations with frequent trips to Mexico. In 2013, Holbrook gave all of that up and did something he vowed never to do. He returned to the Rio Grande Valley. The lure of the Holbrook farming legacy in the Valley brought him back. It started with his grandfather,…

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Growing Dragons in Willacy

Oklahoma native Chuck Taylor grows pitaya, or dragon fruit, commercially in Willacy County. (VBR)

Tucked away at the end of Kenaf Road just west of Raymondville is a small farm that has commercially produced a little-known tropical delicacy for seven years. Pitaya, more commonly known as dragon fruit, is a reddish oval-shaped fruit grows from the arms of a plant of the cactus family. Largely unfamiliar to Rio Grande Valley residents, this new crop has yet to be a common ingredient in a fruit…

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Farm Grant Program Offers Up to $30K

farm grant

National produce distributor PRO*ACT invites qualifying local farms to apply for up to $30,000 from their grant program, Cultivating Change. The program offers a total of $85,000 to farms looking to fund new and innovative projects, The application process is currently open through Dec. 15. Afterwards, a group of industry professionals will conduct a panel review, while the general public votes on their favorites. Both voting and panel review will…

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Mesquite Delivers Flavor

Victoria Cappadona harvests mesquite beans from South Texas ranches to make Cappadona Ranch products. (Courtesy)

Looking out over drought-parched ranchlands in 2012, Victoria Cappadona noticed one native type of vegetation holding forth, keeping its green amidst the dryness. It was the mesquite, the indestructible and ubiquitous South Texas tree with its golden string of bean pods hanging down like ribbons. Cappadona, a McAllen native now living in the Linn-San Manuel ranch country of northern Hidalgo County, remarked to her father-in-law about the tenacity of the…

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PPC Farms Awarded for Cultivating Change 

Mission-based PPC Farms recently placed second nationally in the PRO*ACT Cultivating Change contest, winning $10,000. The funds will enable PPC Farms to reach its goal to protect their crops from various pests and diseases without the use of pesticides and fungicides. The farm plans to purchase floating row covers for use in the farm’s organic brassica and cucurbit production.   Grants range from $1,000 to $20,000 and are of use to complete a wide variety of sustainability and expansion projects. These projects positively…

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