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Meet Our Farmers: Don Zacarias

Meet Don Zacarias Bautista Martínez from Comapa, Jutiapa, in southeast Guatemala. He’s a hardworking farmer and father of five who feeds his family with what he grows. His only income comes from maize. His family’s bank account is a big plastic grain silo that holds 2,000 pounds of corn (worth about $400). They sell part of it whenever they need to pay for the kids’ education or buy necessary goods such as medicine or clothes. They also eat about 8 pounds of that corn every day. In good years in the past, they could almost fill the silo, but it would still run out every year. In bad years, they only had enough corn for a few months. Just like most corn farmers, one look inside the silo is all you need to know how safe or stressed the family feels during that season.

Three years ago, Zacarias received a bag of free biofortified seeds from Semilla Nueva and has planted more every year since. He finds that our Fortaleza hybrids are much higher yielding than the seeds he used to sow and hopes to put two of his oldest children in university with the extra income he earns from our seeds. Now Zacharias fills his silo to the brim every year, and last year his family sold $900 of maize to the market. He knows our seeds are more nutritious and give his family strength (“fortaleza,” in Spanish). “They’re more resistant to droughts and storms, too,” he says. “I still plant part of my land with heirloom seeds, and this year, we lost most of that harvest to strong winds. Without Fortaleza, we would have run out of maize.” 

But what Zacarias loves the most about our seeds is their price. “Most farmers like me need improved seeds to increase our yields. But before Fortaleza, we couldn’t afford them,” he tells us. Semilla Nueva’s subsidies allow our seeds to be sold at a price he can afford, and their yields allow him to make enough money to buy even more seeds in the following year. Zacharias has recommended Fortaleza to all the farmers he knows. Now, almost 50 farmer families in his community are filling up their silos and earning hundreds of dollars of extra income and filling their kitchens and feeding their families with nutritious tortillas.

Farmers like Don Zacarias are the best advocates for our work. They want better seeds at prices all farmers can afford, and we at Semilla Nueva want to make sure their voices are heard.