Local

Firebaugh: The little city that could

Monday, May 10, 2010

Residents in the city of Firebaugh refuse to let high unemployment rates, drought and hunger stop them from making a living. Several families are using city land to grow and sell food ... and city leaders are helping them.

On any given day in Firebaugh you can find dozens of people farming this land behind the city's water treatment facility. Most have the time because they are unemployed. There's a waiting list, but right now 75 families plant, water and pick any number of the dozens of fruits and vegetables that grow here.

"Muy importante, muy importante," exclaimed Maria Escobar.

Escobar learned how to grow broccoli, tomatoes and chilies to feed her family of five.

Gloria Tiznado said, "The pepper and the tomato is good."

Everything grown can be sold at market or taken home to eat. And in a city struggling to reduce an unemployment rate of 31% every opportunity to grow helps. The city of Firebaugh provides all these irrigation pipes you see for free, also water and a farm advisor to make sure everything grows properly.

"We're showing water conservation, we're talking about sustainability, we're talking about empowerment," said city manager Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez said the amount of water a family of four uses in one month is all it takes to sustain all three acres you see here. Now Ramirez is waiting for a grant to construct the city's first ever greenhouse and attract outside investors and increase business for farmers.

Ramirez said, "They're going to be able to cultivate year round. Two, they're going to be able to pull those fruits and vegetables that they grow and sell them at the downtown market or sell them to the restaurants here."

Ramirez is confident he will get the money by spring to start building. Over the last five years he has helped raise $25 Million for the city through state and federal grants. With home grown food year round and plans to add more farm acreage residents say are hopeful to see the fruit of their labor.

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firebaugh, local, john-thomas kobos
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