YAKIMA — Antonio and Maria Vargas attended the Latinos Small Farms Conference last Thursday with a hope of finding help in developing their six acres located in Grandview.

The Vargas’ were specifically looking on how to upgrade their farm operations and add a piece of new equipment.

“We want to get a tractor to make the work easier,” Maria Vargas said of their Hicks Road farm.

Currently, her husband, who is a farm laborer, uses a hand tiller to prepare the ground for planting.

The hard-working couple already are raising five cows and some corn, “…we want to expand our farm to grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers,” Vargas added, who is a teacher for Inspire and working on her Associate of Arts degree.

She hopes the workshop about the FSA Loan program would be of benefit to her family.

United States Department of Agriculture’s FSA Loan program is designed to help minority and women farmers and ranchers with loans to help buy and operate their farms or ranches, explained the Small Farms Conference Director Maria DJ Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said 150 people had registered to attend the one-day conference. The forum was designed to give area small farmers and ranchers information on a wide range of topics to help them be successful in their ventures.

“Our farmers know how to grow things,” Rodriguez said.

“But they often need help with the paperwork. The number one reason for farms failing is the lack of administrative skills. This is where the Center for Latino Farmers can help,” she emphasized.

Serving as conference keynote speaker, Fourth District Congressman Dan Newhouse’s morning speech was centered on issues affecting all farmers: water, labor and market issues.

“I work hard to be an advocate for the agricultural industry Newhouse stated, noting that of the more than 500 lawmakers in Washington D.C. only 15 Congressman are farmers.

“Many people don’t understand our issues,” the Sunnyside farmer turned lawmaker commented.

Newhouse encouraged those attending the one-day conference to feel free to contact him anytime with their concerns.

For the Vargas family, there was a significant amount of information being offered which the couple believed would benefit them and advance their farming business.

“We want to understand how this all works,” Maria Vargas conveyed.

Julia Hart can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or email JHart@sunnysidesun.com

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