The Castillo family provides invaluable research resources to IFAS and the NRCS through their unique farming operation in Plant City, Florida.
Hilda Castillo and her husband Fidel are first generation immigrant farmers whose operation began with a single acre of land dedicated to growing strawberries, over 20 years ago. Today, Castillo Farms hosts over 100 acres and has grown everything from strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon to peppers, squash, pickles and eggplant. Hilda describes it as “a little bit of everything.”
In November of 1988, Fidel Castillo came to the United States as a field worker in Florida. His wife and eldest son soon followed. After realizing that owning a farm would give them the financial stability and rewards they wanted, Hilda and Fidel purchased their first farm.
The most integral part of their entire operation is the support of Hilda and Fidel’s four children and their daughter-in-law. José, Fidel Jr. and his wife Lorena, Alberto and Arnulfo. They have dedicated their lives to making Castillo Farms successful.
Although Hilda is the sole farm manager, José has an outstanding work ethic; he is up early every day tending to day-to-day farm maintenance and activities, Hilda says.
Fidel Jr., in addition to helping his parents’ farming operation, grows his own produce. His wife Lorena also helps with day-to-day farm tasks. Alberto will graduate from Florida State University with a degree in business marketing at the end of the summer. He plans to use his education to market and sell Castillo Farms produce.
“Sometimes, his father makes us pinch him —just to ensure he’s not dreaming. We’re so proud of Alberto,” said Hilda.
Hilda and Fidel’s dedication to share their legacy with their children only scratches the surface of their dynamic operation. As stewards of the land, Castillo Farms allows the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to utilize land samples for soil and water research.
“We understand that providing research resources to IFAS and the NRCS is invaluable to the industry, and are happy we can help,” said Hilda. Involvement in the Plant City community also takes priority at Castillo Farms. Strawberries are donated to Plant City’s St. Clement Catholic Church for their delicious strawberry shortcakes at the annual Strawberry Festival. The farm hosted the National Farmers Union Women’s Leadership Conference attendees for a tour of their facilities and even hosted former United States Secretary of Agriculture.
The Castillo family’s unique operation and story was highlighted nationally by Farm Credit in the past. This year, they received the Agriculturist of the Year award from the Plant City Chamber of Commerce for their contribution to the industry. “We appreciate all the tools and resources Farm Credit has provided and will continue to do business with them,” said Hilda. Solid work ethic, passion and community involvement have made Castillo Farms a vital member of Florida’s agriculture industry. With hard work and dedication, the Castillos will continue to expand their operation, in order to provide a nutritious and abundant food supply for families across the country.