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Mexican farmer's cooperative expands in Battle Creek

By Olivia Lewis, Battle Creek Enquirer, November 6, 2014.

When Filiberto Villa Gomez was 4 years old he helped his mother sell his father's produce at the market in Mexico.

Gomez studied agriculture and worked for Mexico's Department of Agriculture while also working with small-land farmers, women and youth until he moved to the United States. Five years ago, Gomez saw a need for a Mexican Farmer's cooperative in Michigan.

In the cooperative, each farmer grows fruits and vegetables on separate farms and combine their produce to cater to multiple buyers, big and small, across the state.

The cooperative represents over a dozen farmers, and it's opened a new office in Battle Creek, 953 Lakeview Ave., and are expanding their brand by partnering with local businesses.

As Gomez began working with Mexican farmers, he realized they were struggling because of language barriers. The farmers couldn't read the legal paperwork and were struggling to comply with laws and were unable to sell their produce to buyers.

With help from Bangor-based, Farmers on the Move, Gomez said the farmers now comply with regulations and are able to make a profit. He says it's a movement that gave the cooperative their name.

"Together we can provide better training, better knowledge for all of them individually," Gomez said. "It's also easier when they have someone who is reading the laws to them and showing them the practical laws and how they apply."

After five years, Gomez said they are continuing to grow and are diversifying their produce selection.

While blueberries comprise much of the organization's produce, Gomez said it offers tomatoes, bell peppers, chili peppers, jalapeno peppers and squash.

Most of the farmers are in Van Buren, Buchannan and Allegan counties. The cooperative sells fresh produce to businesses such as the Eastern Market in Detroit, Bronson Battle Creek Hospital, Sprout Urban Farms and many others.

Read the complete article on the Battle Creek Enquirer's website.