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North Carolina Farmer Recognized as Hispanic Farmer of the Year

Youtube Video Image for Twisted Sweetgum Farms
Video on the North Carolina Youtube Channel for the 2019 National Hispanic Farmer of the Year

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) National Organization for Professional Hispanic NRCS Employees awarded Benigno and Betina Gonzalez and recognized their farm, Twisted Sweetgum Farms, as Hispanic Farmer of the Year for 2019.

Twisted Sweetgum Farms Benigno González

Twisted Sweetgum Farms is a 276-acre family enterprise owned by husband and wife, Benigno and Betina González, and their daughter, Cortney Wells. Both Benigno and Betina have been working on farms since childhood — neither strangers to hard work. Betina and her daughter both Cherokee descendance were living and working at her father farm.  Benigno came to the United States from Mexico in 1978 and started working on a large cattle operation in Texas. Everything was a challenge at that time, especially the language. In 1979, he migrated to North Carolina and began working on Betina’s father’s tobacco farm. Working alongside each other, Benigno and Betina developed a life-long respect for each other and married in 1998.

 

In 2009, they took their first week-long vacation in 12 years, and when they returned, Betina’s father said, “let me sell you the farm.” Benigno and Betina bought the farm, owning several acres of land initially utilized for cattle production. Later, they decided to diversify their operation with the construction of four chicken houses. With this success, they progressively built the operation to include three separate farms with four chicken houses on each, incorporating the latest technology for the greatest efficiency. This turn of events worked out better than expected, so they decided to create the entity: Twisted Sweetgum Farms after a twisted sweetgum in their yard at their home.

 

In 2011, Benigno and Betina incorporated their business to include their daughter, Courtney, whom has a master’s degree in business. In 2013, Betina’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimers, so Benigno, Betina, and Courtney had to take over his cattle operation on a farm in Davie County. They expanded their operation again in 2014, building four more poultry houses and buying more land. In all, they now own 276 acres with four separate farms, but their main crop is their three grandchildren.

 

Betina González Hispanic Farmer of the YearTwisted Sweetgum as an entity not only provides a national service with their poultry production, but they are committed to help every worker that is employed and working for them. They not only provide a job, but also a home. Each farm has a tenant house to supply housing for the people working at each farm.

 

They do not charge rent — the employees only pay for their living expenses and utilities and have the responsibility for general maintenance of the house and grounds. Ninety percent of their employees are of Hispanic origin, and Twisted Sweetgum has become an oasis for many in their community.

 

Twisted Sweetgum Farms with integrator Mountaire Farms is actively working with USDA-NRCS, not only with the conservation practices and planning on all working lands, but also opening their farm to several technical trainings held at their facilities. For example, they were part of the National Employee Development Center (NEDC) training held in North Carolina: Working Effectively with Hispanic Farmers. The farms have met the NRCS resource management level (RMS) regarding animal mortality, waste management, and erosion control around all facilities. This level of management requires them to apply organic waste at agronomic levels and maintain buffers around all environmentally sensitive areas. 

 

Benigno and Betina recognize Mountaire Farms as an integral part of their success as poultry growers working hand in hand for good stewardship, biosecurity and prosperity of their poultry operations. They are also leaders in the Hispanic community as well as to other farming enterprises in their immediate area. Farming is their passion. Betina states, “We have been very fortunate to be able to farm. It is our passion. There is a saying, if you like what you do, you will do it well — and that is our blessing.”

 

In March of this year, Benigno changed his status from permanent resident to an American citizen.

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(Top: Benigno  Gonzalez, Middle Image:  Betina González, Bottom Image: Gonzalez family on farm.)