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Producing Excellence

Hilda Castillo

Plant City, FL

Castillo Farms Group Corp.

Products: Strawberries, peppers, squash, cantaloupe

Size of Operation: 124+ acres

In Business Since: 1997

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit of Central Florida

Working with Farm Credit Since: 2006

Each year, people move to the U.S. from all over the world, each to find their own American Dream. Nearly twenty years ago, Hilda and Fidel Castillo were among them, moving to central Florida from Mexico to build a better life for themselves and their family.

They started as field workers, but soon realized that owning their own farm would give them the financial rewards and stability they wanted. In 1997, they were able to purchase their first farm, just 5 acres, and in 2006 they secured an operating loan from Farm Credit of Central Florida to help them with their strawberry crop.

“Farm Credit offered us the operating loan we needed at a good interest rate, and let us time our payments to our cash flow,” Hilda says, “The staff has always been very helpful and patient, especially with the language barrier between us.” Working with farmers and ranchers from diverse backgrounds is an important philosophy for Farm Credit, and Farm Credit of Central Florida has several Spanish-speaking staff members.

Fortunately, raising produce is a profitable, though labor-intensive, proposition. The Castillos have been able to expand their operation over the years to its current 124 acres, where strawberries and cantaloupes are their largest crops, supplemented with peppers and squash. Through their broker, their produce reaches consumers all along the Gulf Coast as well as a good portion of the East Coast.

Working with them today are four of their sons. Hilda says “We want to teach future generations that with hard work they can be successful in agriculture or in any job they choose.” Yet the Castillos’ children aren’t the only family members who have contributed to their operation over the years. With each successive expansion and successful series of seasons, they hosted other family members from their native Mexico to work with them on their farm until they were able to build their financial reserves and establish their own farming operations. In all, six of Hilda’s brothers and their parents each now operate their own successful farms in Florida – many of whom are also member-borrowers of Farm Credit of Central Florida.

While helping their family, the Castillos are still focused on continuing to expand their own operation.

As to why she enjoys being a farmer, Hilda says, “We like the independence being a farmer offers. It also feels good to know we’re growing food for people to enjoy, and helping feed the country that helped us achieve our dream.”

Download a PDF version of this story here.