Abel Lopez (he/Him)

Abel is in his third season farming on farms not his own. He spent two seasons on an organic veggie farm outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is now working as a farm trainer at a county-run farmer training program in the South Valley of Albuquerque.

Honestly I got into farming because I just needed a job at first. I hopped on Craigslist and found an opportunity in Corrales, New Mexico. I’ve always been intrigued by farming and I was always curious about it, but I never knew how to get into it. 

I’ve decided to stay farming because I like it and it’s not just a job now. I fell in love with it. It brings a lot of joy to my life so I want to keep doing it.

For the majority of my last jobs, I had been working with kids. I used to work with kids at a mental health facility. I did that for about four years, and after that I was a substitute teacher.

I think teaching kids about where their food comes from is really cool – I always think, ‘Holy crap, this is something I can do in the future: teach kids about the importance of growing food and where it comes from!’

Now with the farmer training program,  having that previous experience of teaching, I have a lot of patience…and I think that will help in my position now.

I was born in the United States, but the rest of my family was born in Mexico. We all live here now.

It’s always this game for me where I’m either “too Mexican” or “not Mexican enough”.

Farming is the fall back I have when my Mexican friends tell me I’m not Mexican enough or not speaking Spanish enough: “Ok, you said I’m not Mexican enough, but look at me – this is what a lot of Mexicans do, they farm.” 

This connection gives me peace of mind…that I’m Mexican regardless of the piece of paper that says I was born in the United States. 

I’m doing this work that people back in Mexico do all the time…working in agriculture. I’m doing what migrant laborers do. I also think of it in an ancestral way.

I was talking to my coworker the other day – giving him my background, that I don’t come from a farming family. He stopped me and reminded me that I do have a farming background – maybe not in the past decade or 30 to 40 years, but somewhere, some time, my ancestors were farming.

I’m doing what my ancestors did back back back in the day – that’s a cool connection for me. 

Many farmers that have worked for not their own farm can sit and say the same thing probably…that they feel undervalued. That they are not being given the respect or credit that they deserve.

A lot of the time you don’t even see the owners…you’re the one getting there at 5 or 6 in the morning to get shit done, and I get it, it’s part of the job, but it’s nice to get recognized and a simple thank you is nice. 

Recognition is a big thing.

These are the people who are literally running your freaking farm. They are the ones who are loyal and bust their ass every day and then for you to see social media posts where you’re not even mentioned…that is something that can boost workers’ confidence and morale.

I’m not saying that I want to be mentioned all the time. I’m not saying I want to be the farm’s poster boy, but when the public is blinded and they think the farm owner is the one literally doing everything, that is the credit I’m talking about. 

I want to be recognized for the work that I’m doing. 

I’ve experienced racism and it may not be to the extent of someone calling me a ‘wetback’ straight to my face, but it’s certain things you catch on to… other people are getting favors or special treatment, you being talked down to. 

I’ve seen a lot of sexism, too. I would be picked over a woman to do something considered more physical, or not get as much backlash as one of my female coworkers would get. 

This is my third season farming and now that I’m at a different spot, I see that what I’ve experienced previously is this holding of knowledge and not pushing workers to want to keep farming or create a farm of their own someday. That’s really affected me. It blocks your knowledge of pretty much anything you need to start your own thing. 

As a matter of fact, by the end of my second season, I hated coming to work. That’s when I realized, I love farming and for me to be getting to this point, I need to leave. I felt that way because I didn’t have the support from my higher ups to push and challenge me to stay in farming. I was treated as a replaceable employee. 

It was a feeling on the farm of what the farm owners had I could never have.

It was straight up told to me that I was never going to make more than $15/hour there (and I wasn’t making close to that at the time).

When people tell you that, it shows you their intentions… how they value you. When you’re told that, you don’t want to pursue it.

You see the ceiling. 

I want people to know who the real “farmers” are. Not to take anything away from farm owners, but for the people who are actually doing the work to be noticed and recognized. 

You have so many people, a lot of migrant laborers who bust their ass way harder than me and we never hear about them. They’re kind of numbers and it’s really sad.

I wish in the farming community and just in general, farmers would be recognized for their work and what they’re doing.

Farming doesn’t feel like a job to me at times. You do something different every day and I love that part of it, whether it’s a challenge or not. 

Teaching my family about growing vegetables is really cool. My sister is getting really into it and wants to learn about compost.

I feel like I have that value to bring to my family.