Diana Padilla describes it as seeing a piece of land and knowing it’s where she wanted to be.
The Chicago native and retired federal government employee chanced upon the farmland near the corner of Rangerville and Morris roads in Harlingen and had a good feel for it. She and her husband Saul purchased a 15-acre plot, including the old farmhouse where they live, and then began farming.
It was 2004 when they began to get into the practices and techniques of organic farming. It was the ground-up start to what would eventually become Yahweh’s All Natural Farm and Garden. Their farm operations would then progress as their commitment to organic farming grew. They became believers of the community-supported agriculture concept.
It’s a partnership between the farm and customers where they plan what vegetables will be grown and delivered. The farm is paid up front to provide the capital needed to plant and grow vegetables that are USDA-certified organic.
“We build relationships and we know each other,” Padilla said. “We invite them to the farm once a year to see what’s happening here and what is being planned.”
Padilla said Yahweh’s is going through growing pains. It is gradually scaling up its operations and seeks the capital to make that happen. The Padillas now own 75 acres of land along Morris and the adjoining Louisiana Street in Harlingen. They are planning to grow additional crops in the years ahead. This will add to their base of organically grown vegetables that includes carrots, beets, kale, tomatoes, squashes and onions.
Those vegetables and other varieties are delivered every Wednesday and Thursday during growing seasons in the Rio Grande Valley. Yahweh’s has customers from Edinburg to Brownsville who enter into 15- or 30-week contracts with the farm for the home deliveries. Pork, beef, chicken and eggs from free-range and organically-fed animals are also available, thanks to products Yahweh’s buys from area farmers.
“We love what we do,” Padilla said. “It’s changed our lives.”
Creating a community
The farm has also helped to improve the lives of others. The Padillas aren’t just into growing vegetables. They’ve set up HOPE, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that provides both training and education to small-scale farmers and individuals in the Valley who are interested in growing, preparing and selling their own organic food for self-sustainability. They try to reach youth with their Junior Sprouts Chef Club that includes topics like healthier eating and preparing fruits and vegetables in fun way.
“You can live off the land, but you have to love the land,” Padilla said.
That sentiment is exemplified in the community farming Yahweh’s provides. Local residents can pay $15 a month to grow vegetables and plants in small plots of land on the Padilla farm. They are then given sunrise-to-sundown access to their plots and can also seek advice from the Padillas in growing their plants.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” she said, walking between rows of kale, broccoli and tomatoes, on a farm with even bigger ambitions.