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Texas Native Blazes Trails in Home State and Florida

While passing through Piedras Negras, Mexico many years ago, Guadalupe Berrones noticed a long line of people standing outside a rundown building with its garage door propped open. It was a Mexican restaurant, the only restaurant for many miles, selling tacos. The tacos did not taste very good, but the thought of owning and operating her own restaurant was a powerful vision Berrones carried away with her that day.

Born in Crystal City, Berrones was raised along with her nine siblings north of La Pryor on the Holiday Farm, where her father was employed. Each year from third grade until graduating from high school, Berrones and her family would migrate north during the summer months to either Minnesota or North Dakota hoeing sugar beets. “I loved spending time with my family during the summer months; we were together day and night,” said Berrones.

While studying business and management at St. Edwards University in Austin, Berrones was invited to an anniversary celebration in Florida. It was there that she met Cesar, her future husband. “It was love at first sight. We were married and became Christians along the way,” said Berrones.

About two years later, in 1987, Berrones started her first restaurant south of Miami from the ground up. She rented a vacant building, hired a cook and in less than a year, Casita Tejas was opened. Berrones gives credit to community leaders who helped her because they wanted her to succeed as well as her husband Cesar, who quit his construction job to assist with the restaurant duties.

Longing to be with her family in Texas again, Berrones purchased 54-acres of land in 2005 with a house from the Nueces River Ranch near Crystal City. “Our land is right on the river; I love the tranquility it provides. I started a cow-calf operation that family members assist me with while I am in Florida,” said Berrones.

As her restaurant business was booming, Berrones purchased a second restaurant south of Miami, and then a third. With the demanding workload, she was unable to spend quality time with her family. She made the decision to sell one of her restaurants.

In 2014, Berrones purchased a 152-acre ranch north of La Pryor was purchased. She came to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Winter Garden Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for assistance in improving land efficiency and protecting the natural resources.

NRCS District Conservationist, J. M. Villarreal developed a conservation plan to line out a plan of conservation practices that could benefit the land. To help implement these practices, Berrones was able to utilize the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which is a farm bill program that will assist with the costs of implementing the conservation practices. On the Crystal City ranch, Villarreal assisted Berrones with cross-fencing, biomass planting (buffelgrass), livestock pipeline and implementing rotational grazing for her cattle. With little to no forage for the cattle to graze, Villarreal recommend cross fencing to address the soil erosion issues as well as biomass planting.

“It was very important to me to preserve the water quality of the Nueces River; the cross-fencing also keeps the river’s beauty intact, and my cattle from traveling downstream,” said Berrones.

At the La Pryor ranch, cover crops (oats and barley), brush management and prescribed grazing for her cattle and goats were implemented. “Brush management has been a successful tool in addressing the degraded plant condition,” said Villarreal.

Pending practices include biomass planting. A third 76-acre ranch located west of La Pryor was purchased in 2017. The purpose in buying the third ranch is to harvest hay for the cattle. The combined ranches now carry about 100 head of cattle.

“I love Texas beef! You cannot get this quality of beef in or around my home in Homestead, Florida. I purchase most of the beef for my personal use in Florida from an area meat market here in Texas. The meat is so fresh,” said Berrones. “My goal is to grow grass-fed cattle at my ranches and one day soon transport my own beef to my restaurants and other markets.”

Berrones splits her time between Texas and Florida. Whether it is buying or selling cattle, ranches or restaurants, this entrepreneur is quick to credit others for her success. Assisting her father with raising goats at an early age, she credits him for instilling her motivational drive, strong work ethic and love of animals. Starting with a vision she had many years ago outside of Piedras Negras, she also credits owning and operating successful restaurants to 31 years of hard work and dedication.

Berrones said, “I credit any successes I have to the many blessings God has given me. I could not have done it without my husband Cesar and my family – family is the most important.”

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Winter Garden SWCD wanted to share the story of one of its female producers. For more information on how NRCS can assist you with your land management goals, please contact J. M. Villarreal at (830) 374-3838, extension 3 or visit the local office at 319 N 1st Ave., Suite 2 in Crystal City.

Celebrating Women’s History Month, Texas Native Blazes Trails in Home State and Florida
Debra Parsons, Winter Garden Soil & Water Conservation District (2018, April)