Celebrating the World’s Family Farms by Telling Their Stories:  Mexico


Our family farm started because an accountant fell in love.

He was born in Coahuila, a northern Mexican state. He lived for a time in Laredo, Texas, and went to school in San Antonio. Later, he worked in Tampico, a coastal city in Mexico. His employer was an American oil company, which valued his ability to speak both Spanish and English. He didn’t know anything about farming—but he met a young woman whose father imported dairy cows from the United States.

The biggest market for cows and dairy production was in Mexico City. The young woman went there and the young man followed. They got married and milked cows for a living. They sold their milk door to door, hustling through the city to find customers.

They rented land on the outskirts of Mexico City, but they kept moving further out as the city grew. Finally, they bought a farm of their own in a rural area.

They were our great-grandparents, and that’s how our family farm started about 80 years ago.

Today, our operation in central Mexico is bigger than they ever could have imagined. We have 500 milking cows plus 380 calves and heifers. This year, we also planted sorghum for silage on 40 hectares.

Lots of people think that family farms are relics of the past, and that corporations dominate agriculture today. In fact, there are 608 million family farms in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. They occupy between 70 and 80 percent of all farmland, and they produce around 80 percent of the world’s food.

A large majority of farms are small: Five in six consist of less than two hectares. The smallholder farmers who work them control only 12 percent of all agricultural land but manage to produce about 35 percent of the world’s food.

We simply couldn’t feed ourselves without family farms.

The secret strength of family farms is their sense of belonging. The business is an extension of the home, and we build the business together.

On our farm, everyone has a role. Our father is the veterinarian. He knows everything about cows, especially their reproduction. He oversees their health, diet, genetics, and more.

My brother Alfredo is the agronomist. He handles forage, crop production, and soil health. He’s also a tech genius who runs the software in our milking parlor, where we track the wellbeing of our cows with pedometers and rumination tags.

My job is to run the business side of the farm: making sure we have everything we need to work every day, manage the payroll for 29 employees, handle the bank accounts, and ensure compliance with government regulations.

As we farm, we preserve our traditions, but we also update and modernize. My great grandfather once drove a Ford Model T, often into areas without roads. He wouldn’t recognize our world of mobile phones, to even the incredible advances we’ve seen in milk production—but he would have welcomed all of it.

This is one of the reasons I fight for farmers to have access to the best agricultural technology. I want to take the legacy that I’ve inherited and bring it into the future.

Family farming has its challenges. Relationships are our strength but also our challenge because we can’t quit our families the way we might quit a job. Succession can be difficult but is not impossible. Passing a farm down the generations can lead to fractional ownership.  The only way to set the farm up for success is to be prepared to compromise where needed and have a very clear plan to move forward.

When you work as a team and the farm flourishes, however, you gain a powerful sense of satisfaction. You put in real effort, working through long days, back pains, headaches, and tears—and in the end you have something of your own that makes you feel proud.

Thanks to my great grandparents, I’m now a fifth-generation farmer, and my brother’s children are in the sixth generation. But these are just numbers. Even the youngest family farms make their own history every day.

There’s a good chance that somewhere today, an accountant will fall in love and start the world’s next family farm.

Georgina Gutierrez

Georgina Gutierrez

Gina Gutierrez is serving as Community Outreach Agvocate for the Global Farmer Network. She is a 5th generation dairy farmer from the central region of Mexico. In 2015, Gina started a Facebook page advocating for the dairy industry. La Vida Lactea now has nearly 60,000 followers. She completed a Master's Degree in Corporate Law. She writes regularly for Ganadero and Holstein de Mexico magazine. In 2018, Gina won the Global Farmer Network's Kleckner Award.

Leave a Reply