YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima resident Alfredo Ortiz and his brother, Ricardo, do not work in cattle ranches — but their future plans indicate a desire to do so.
The two brothers have wanted to set up a cattle ranch for years but lacked the know-how, which would be an immediate red flag for any bank contemplating financing such a venture.
“Farm-working, ranching is in our blood,” said Alfredo Ortiz, 48, who grew up in a farming family in Mexico. “Here in this country, it is possible if you have the means, the ambition and motivation to prosper.”
The Ortiz brothers are getting help to achieve their goal thanks to a program administered by the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing and Heritage University called ADENTRO. Low-income agricultural entrepreneurs could potentially receive start-up loans of up to $50,000 if they fulfill the requirements of a weeks-long training course.
ADENTRO provides those overlooked or underserved by the banking community with the necessary training and resources to build a successful business, said business director Juan Aguilar.
In the inaugural class, 15 students of Hispanic and Native American heritage are taking 10 weeks of lab and field work and listening to guest speakers.
“Farm workers eventually want to become owners and continue their pursuit of the American dream,” Aguilar said. “It’s a growing of the business and ownership process — a grass-roots part of the American dream.”
The Yakima-based Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing has mostly offered farmworkers affordable housing since its inception more than 30 years ago. But in 2010, the nonprofit was certified as a community development financial institution by the U.S. Treasury Department. Years later, ADENTRO was formed.
Lectures in the course include computer literacy, state regulations, business banking and credit, among other topics. Students must take weekly exams, pass all of them and complete the course before consideration for any loan application.
The students — all with farming experience — agree that the courses are valuable.
“Even though we have experience in the orchards, at the bank it’s a different story,” said Ranferi Arteaga, 48, an employee at a Tieton orchard who wants to start his own operation. “You don’t know what you’ll talk about, you don’t know how to convince the people. These classes will help us a lot.”
“We’ve seen that (the students) they’re all very enthusiastic, very energetic,” said Len Black, a Heritage professor involved with ADENTRO. He said they understand the basics of how an agricultural business operates but lack knowledge of the government regulations, such as required permits.
By the end of the course in mid-March, the students will have completed a business plan, complete with revenue, cost projections and budgets.