The estimated 50 people who gathered the evening of June 8 in rural Harvard, experienced a little history being made.
Mexican immigrant Jorge Guereca worked for years planting and picking vegetables for the Harvard-area Stade farm. But always had grander ambitions.
"I was working at a farm and I wanted it to be my own," he said matter-of-factly. And since 2014, the farm at 6710 S. Oak Grove Road has been – run by himself, his wife, daughter and sister-in-law. The historic farmstead, tucked onto 30 acres (he also owns another 20) specializes in a diverse range of crops including tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, sweet corn cucumbers, peppers, watermelons, radishes, broccoli, peas, onions and beets ... 24,000 beet plants. His favorite plant by far, however, is the Mexican zucchini.
"We pick every day," Guereca said. "The same plant produces for two months."
At first, they planted the fields by hand. But then, slowly, he saved enough money to buy the first of two used tractors in 2015. They added pollinating bees five years ago ... and chickens. There also are apple trees and, soon, raspberries.
"We feel so proud as Latinos that we are standing here on a farm that belongs to a Latino," said Maggie Rivera, president and CEO of the Illinois Migrant Council., before presenting Guereca with commemorative plaque. "I want him to know how proud we are that he made history."
Rivera was representing Raices Latinas, a groundbreaking coalition consisting of the Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project – FLAP, Illinois Migrant Council, Mano a Mano Family Resource Center, Center for Agrarian Learning at McHenry County College, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County and the McHenry County Historical Society. The organization was made possible last year through a grant by the Community Foundation for McHenry County.
Current and former migrant workers living in McHenry County are encouraged to share their stories, pictures and any artifacts with the historical society so we can build a permanent archive. For information, go to www.raiceslatinasmc.org.
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