Staten Island Farmer Appeals to Fans to Kickstart his Mexican Crop

By Nicholas Rizzi on August 6, 2012 6:53am 

STATEN ISLAND — A farmer who's turned a Staten Island plot into a verdant Mexican meadow is hoping his fans help him grow.

Gudelio Garcia, whose El Poblano Farm in New Springville creates a bounty of produce usually found south of the border, is selling himself on the philanthropist website Kickstarter.

Already, he's passed his $5,000 goal that would let him complete this year's harvest of tomatillos, papalo, epazote, flor de calabaza.

And, with more than 200 backers from across the USA, Mexico and Europe, he's hoping to able to afford to cultivated more acres next year.

So far, the total raised stands at $6,999, with a donation deadline of August 9.

"I'm happy," Garcia, 46, of Port Richmond said. "Thank God a lot people put some money in, I'm happy for that."

Garcia started El Poblano Farm in 2010, renting an acre at Decker Farm, a non-profit 200 year old historic farm operated by Historic Richmondtown.

Decker Farm and Historic Richmondtown play no part in the Kickstarter campaign.

He sells his crops at farmers markets across New York.

"Not everybody has tomatillo like that, this is special," he said about his bestseller.

"People are so happy. They say, 'I didn't see this tomatillo before, now I'm so happy.' I like that."

Early this year, the farmer got the chance to rent 10 acres of a farm in Andover, New Jersey. He received a $1,150 loan in January from Accion, a non-profit micro-lender, to purchase seed.

But he could only afford to cultivate three acres. Erica Dorn, who works with Accion, suggested the Kickstart campaign to let him plant on the rest of the space.

"I wanted to see what we could do to help him further and that's where the Kickstarter campaign came in," Dorn said. "We wanted to test out the platform and see how it went."

Kickstarter allows people to ask users of the website for money for projects, instead of banks or investors. 

"I felt like this is an amazing opportunity to offer people," Dorn said. "We would be a great fit with the local community.'

With the help of GrowNYC's New Farmer Development project, Dorn and Garcia started the fundraising, thanking donors with gifts including tote bags with Garcia's face on them and sessions to teach farming techniques.

The campaign was chosen as a Kickstarter staff pick.

"The support from people all over the world has been tremendous,” said Dorn.

Garcia was born in Puebla, Mexico. He was taught how to farm by his father, who grew corn and beans his whole life.

For 17 years, Garcia grew and sold papaya and watermelon at the largest market in Mexico City, Central de Abasto.

He emigrated to Staten Island 12 years ago. Aside from farming, he works in construction.

Though Mexican produce is his main crop, Garcia also grows zucchini and tomatoes.

"I need a bigger spot," he said. "It's not enough."

However, he said he'd want to keep his space at Decker Farm because the Staten Island soil is good for zucchini.

"I want to stay with this place," he said.

"For the zucchini flowers, it's bueno."

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