Most people have no idea where their food comes from or how it’s grown. In Edinburg, there stands a family-owned and -operated farm that believes knowing where your food comes from is a comfort that all consumers are entitled to. According to its website, Nature’s Heartland Farm works to grow fresh, organic produce, allowing its customers to pinpoint precisely where their groceries are produced.
Founded in 2003 by the Hernández family, they run the 9.4-acre farm with no extra external help. Nature’s Heartland Farm solely relies on the communities’ support, farmers’ market sales, and the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a food system that connects the producer to the consumers more closely.
Civia Hernández, daughter of Miguel and Maria Hernández, explained her father grew up farming and always grew produce for the family. But, when Miguel was introduced to the CSA program by a family friend, he felt inspired to bring the community together and teach people about eating healthy.
“Our main goal is to provide the community with a healthy supply of vegetables that are in season and at a lower cost,” Civia said. “One of the things we’ve noticed is when shopping at a grocery store, the prices of organic and natural foods are higher than commercial items. We want to provide a product that is affordable to everyone.”
Customers can purchase products under $5, such as orange carrots, red beets, yellow onion, salad tomatoes, rainbow chard, green kale, Brussels sprouts, leeks, celery, chicken and duck eggs in person at the farm. They can also find produce at the McAllen and Harlingen Farmers Market and through the CSA program for $101 for the year they can order online and pick up curbside. All produce is grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides.
Currently, the Hernández family has about 30 different varieties of vegetables growing on their farm. During the winter season, a peak growing time in the RGV, the farm has about 100 different types of produce growing at one time.
“There are so many advantages to shopping locally. (The produce) is fresher than at a big chain grocery store, and you’re building a relationship with the farmer,” Civia said. “I know almost all of our customers and have conversations with them. That’s one of the biggest perks of going to a farmers market because you’re able to interact with people. I would say our customers also like that aspect of having a connection with us.”
When COVID-19 caused local farmers’ markets to close for nearly a year, Nature’s Heartland could no longer connect with their customers in person. Civia explained their online shop was a saving grace when it came to running their business during the pandemic.
Nature’s Heartland’s website was created in December 2019 as a promotional tool but did not launch with the online shop feature. Customers were able to purchase products online and pick them up using curbside at the farm.
“I created our website in December 2019 to promote the farm,” Civia said. “We didn’t have the online shop yet, but when the stores started closing down, I quickly added the shop online feature, and we had a great result. That was our main source of income. It was life-saving.”
Nature’s Heartland sells its products via its online shop, CSA membership program, and local farmers’ markets. Civia said she and her family look forward to continuing to help the community live healthier lifestyles.
“I have people tell me how they don’t get sick very often and how before they started buying vegetables from us, they used to go to the doctor quite a lot,” Civia said. “And they would get prescribed medication for things. And now they’re like, ‘No, I don’t get sick as much. I go for my checkup, and the doctor says I’m perfectly healthy.’ So we love to hear those stories about our customers and how buying locally and buying naturally grown vegetables from us has helped them in their life.”
The farm’s future plans consist of cooking up YouTube videos showcasing a wide variety of recipes. One can find videos of Chef Marcel, a chef and instructor at McAllen Culinary Academy, walking viewers through various recipes that include vegetables from Nature’s Heartland. Civia said she hopes they can continue collaborating with local Valley chefs for their customers to learn more about healthy eating.