Longtime Guatemalan farmworker poised to take over Hadley farm


Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2022

HADLEY — It has been 17 years since Rosendo Santizo came to the United States from Guatemala to support his mother and siblings.

Santizo, who began work harvesting, washing and packing vegetables on the Winter Moon Roots farm in 2010, is making a transition next month that few have made: from immigrant farm worker to farm owner. And he has now launched a fundraising campaign to ensure that that transition is successful.

“I’m one of the first immigrants who is having a farm after working for many many years on the farm, and I’m finally going to become an owner,” Santizo said. “It’s an exciting and unique case. I want to be kind of like a mirror for other people … I want to be an example for everyone else.”

For the past three years, Santizo has learned the details of the business from Michael Docter, the farm’s current owner, and next month Docter is set to sign over the farm officially. That puts Santizo in rare company in the United States, where a 2019 study found that 98% of farmland is owned by white people.

“Every farm owner around here is a white person, not an immigrant farmer from Guatemala or Mexico,” Santizo said.. “For me, it’s a unique case.”

But buying a farm is not easy work. Santizo said that he’ll have to take out a loan of around $330,000 to buy equipment and cover the first year of operations. So he has turned to GoFundMe, where in just a week he has raised $21,573, deciding in the process to raise his initial fundraising goal of $30,000 to $50,000.

“The loan is really high, and we have to pay interest on it,” he said. “So if we raise about $30,000 or $50,000 or more, it’s less of a loan we are going to take from the bank.”

As for Santizo’s feelings about taking over the farm officially next month, they’re mixed.

“I think it’s super exciting,” he said. “But it’s also scary a little bit.”