For one Mexican family, Black Dirt Is the American Dream

| 06 Mar 2012 | 03:33

When two New York City teens decided to track their food to its source, they ended up in Goshen on a farm with a very New York sort of story.

Ana and Chrisostomo Angel came to the United States in the late 80s. They lived and brought up four kids in Brooklyn, and worked all sorts of jobs, including running a taco stand. Ana, who had grown up on a farm in her native Progreso, Mexico, harbored a dream of getting back to the land at some point, somehow. The Angels often drove past Goshen on their way to visit family in Middetown, and they knew the soil was “rico” – rich. But for all the access they had, it might as well have been a desert.

Then they saw an announcement on TV about The New Farmer Development Project, which helps immigrants with agricultural experience establish small farms. Ana was accepted to the program in 2004 and trained in organic techniques like planting beneficial inter-planting that keeps bugs at bay. (Ana grew up on an organic farm, although there was no such word in the local lexicon.) She got help procuring seeds, finding land and making connections.

Today, the family farms 17 acres of “rico” black dirt. On weekends, they drive up to the Angel Family Farm from Brooklyn to plant or pick produce – including some home-inspired favorites like poblano and jalapeno peppers and papalo, a relative of cilantro – which they sell at farmers’ markets in the city and distribute to the over 100 members of their community supported agriculture programs.

Other than their land, two trucks and a tractor, they don’t have much. But what use, Ana laughs, do farmers have for fancy clothes? Posts are in the ground for what they hope will be a storage shed, if the harvest is a good one. On farming weekend, the Angels stay with family in Middletown, and in return, their hosts are invited to roam free on the farm and pick to their hearts’ content.

Their appearance in the movie, “What’s on Your Plate,” has been good for the family. People recognize them now at farmers’ markets. But they’re still strangers in Goshen. Dirt got lost looking for the Angel Family Farm and inquired at the farm next door. The farmer had never heard of them.

Ana, 40, compares raising plants to something she has lots of experience with: raising children. You have to weed, she said, because a plant, like a child, will get lost if you let it associate with bad friends.

Chrisostomo, 41, who grew up in cities, was skeptical at first. Now, he’s a farmer through and through. “I don’t want any other work. There is much satisfaction and tranquility. No one bothers us anymore.”

When Ana picked her youngest daughter up at her Brooklyn school recently, the teacher told Ana that Maria, 5, had been telling beautiful stories from back home in Mexico. Since Maria has never been to Mexico, Ana wondered whether her daughter was making up stories.

It turns out Maria is just telling it like it is. “I’m telling all my friends that I’m a farmer,” she said, “but they don’t believe me! They think I’m crazy.”

Interested in Angel Farm CSA? Call Ana Angel: 347-236-5673