How a Donated MK-V is Empowering a Community & Changing Lives

Monarch Tractor

Few holidays share a connection to food quite like Thanksgiving. This traditional feast represents an abundant harvest made possible by those who grow and prepare the food, shared in the company of friends and family.  

In a very special role, one particular Monarch MK-V tractor is helping an innovative and dedicated individual spread the benefits of a plentiful harvest to a farmworker community. In doing so, community members are attaining greater food security along with healthier, happier lives and a promising future.  The story behind this tractor is to glimpse the power of sharing, caring, food, and community in transforming lives for the better.  

El Jardin del Pueblo

Translated, the name El Jardin del Pueblo means "the people’s garden.” Founded by Ezequiel “Zeke” Guzman, El Jardin del Pueblo is a three-acre garden helping alleviate food insecurity in Sonoma County by growing culturally familiar foods for farmworkers. Many of these workers and their families volunteer their time in the garden. In doing so, they’ve stitched together a tight, thriving community.  

Recently, El Jardin del Pueblo was gifted a Monarch MK-V tractor from Farm to Pantry, a Sonoma County foodbank, via an anonymous organization and Sonoma Land Trust.  

El Jardin tractor donation

We decided that gifting the MK-V to El Jardin del Pueblo would be the highest and best use of the tractor donation.

Kelly Conrad, Community Outreach and Development Director, Farm to Pantry 

Seeding El Jardin

Sonoma County is an agriculturally abundant region. Paradoxically, over a third of Sonoma County households, primarily farmworkers, struggle to meet their basic food needs. And while ultra-processed, nutrient-poor, unhealthy foods are cheap and accessible, these foods exacerbate chronic lifestyle illnesses that shorten lifespans, reduce quality of life, and demand expensive medications.  

Farm to Pantry and another Sonoma County food bank, Farm to Fight Hunger, grow and rescue food that would otherwise be wasted to donate to those in need. Both organizations rely on volunteers and donations. Guzman, who grows food in his own large garden, is one such volunteer.  

Guzman is empathetic to farmworkers’ needs. He comes from a migrant farmworker family and though now retired; his experiences led him into a career as an independent workforce development consultant to operate farmworker training programs.  

Zeke expressed how he learned everything he knows about gardening from his father. He was afraid that this generational knowledge would get lost if there was not a venue in which to share it.

Kelly Conrad, Community Outreach and Development Director, Farm to Pantry 

Gardening at El Jardin del Pueblo

While distributing his produce, farmworker families would ask if there was any way for them to get culturally familiar foods. Guzman recognized a need that went beyond food. 

Guzman recalls, “In April 2022 I went to Farm to Fight Hunger and said, ‘I have three acres and I want to do exactly what you’re doing.’ They said, ‘Great! Let’s plan for next year.’ I said, ‘No, tomorrow!’” 

Between a combination of Guzman’s own seeds and donations from local nurseries and Cold Creek Compost, he planted 1,000 seedlings. Soon farmworkers and volunteers showed up at his garden expressing an interest in helping him grow food.  

Food for Body, Heart & Soul

That first year, El Jardin produced over 6,000 pounds of food. It was such a success, Guzman decided to expand for the 2023 growing season. The community asked to plant even more culturally familiar foods; chiles – ancho, serrano, jalapeño, and escamillo – a nopales cactus garden, and chayotes (Guzman calls them “Mexican zucchinis”). The wife of one volunteer donated chile seeds she brought back from Oaxaca from plants that she uses to make molé sauce. Around 5,000 seedlings went into the ground for 2023.  

Guzman noticed the garden was stitching the community together. Farmworker volunteers were showing up. Saturday mornings were spent sharing food, eating burritos, drinking coffee, and socializing before garden work started. Children suddenly had a productive place to go.  

Young grower engaging with the MK-V

Kids are putting down their phones and instead, growing food. They are engaging their hands and minds and love it. People talk among themselves offering help if someone has a problem. This builds community resiliency.

Zeke Guzman, Founder El Jardin del Pueblo 

Social connections and a stronger sense of purpose strengthens mental health. Having access to nutritional foods improves physical wellness. Guzman calls the combination of eating familiar, nutritious foods with an appreciation of harvesting them an empowering combination. 

Growing Stronger

Just as Guzman was recognizing even greater potential for El Jardin del Pueblo, he received news that  El Jardin was the recipient of a generous philanthropic donation. The Monarch MK-V tractor was delivered in November, delighting the entire El Jardin del Pueblo community. Now, empowered with a high-tech tool, El Jardin is becoming a place to not only alleviate food insecurity and strengthen community, but gain valuable knowledge and skills for the future. It was impeccable timing as Guzman’s old diesel tractor was failing.  

This (MK-V) tractor is a training tool for farmworkers. Growers do train tractor drivers, but unless you’re fortunate enough to work for a grower with an MK-V, you won’t have an opportunity to learn how to operate this technology. I want to create opportunities for those who don’t have access as a current employee.

Zeke Guzman, Founder El Jardin del Pueblo 

Gardening at El Jardin del Pueblo

Guzman is also using the tractor to discuss environmental issues. Every aspect of El Jardin is organic. With its ability to collect and report data on reducing carbon emissions, the MK-V electric tractor is a natural starting point for discussions on climate change and the role of regenerative farming practices.  

Because the MK-V’s smart screen is bilingual in English and Spanish, it makes it easy for Guzman to use it as a teaching tool. To this end, Guzman says he feels the tractor is helping teach English as a second language. Despite having the tractor only a few weeks, he’s already supervising teens on its use. 

“Monarch hit it right on the nose with a bilingual smart screen,” Guzman says. “You train in Spanish, develop confidence, and then move to English.”  

An Abundant Future

In addition to being used as an educational tool, the MK-V will be functioning in its role as a tractor — cultivating, mowing, and sowing cover crops among other duties. And lest you think the MK-V is too much tractor for a three-acre farm garden, El Jardin’s future is rapidly growing.  

El Jardin is expanding with plans for 2024 that include a children’s garden, hundreds of banana trees (whose leaves provide traditional tamales wrappers), and jicama plants along with a lot more of everything that has already been grown. A neighboring farmer is donating three acres for an El Jardin del Pueblo II, which will enable year-round farming. Guzman also has entrepreneurial plans to help the community process, preserve, and sell the chiles they grow for a secondary income stream. Other people are stepping forward asking Guzman how they can expand El Jardin into their own gardens. Guzman is developing a well-planned, efficient system to get significant amounts of cultural foods to the community.   

Guzman envisions transporting the MK-V to the various El Jardin del Pueblo sites. It will truly be a community tractor for a community network of gardens and farms.  

When thinking about the MK-V at El Jardin, Conrad is filled with joy. “The garden’s abundance certainly mirrors the generous spirit of its owner, Zeke, and we can’t wait to see the tractor at work and what the future of the garden has in store,” she says.  

As for Guzman?  

Donating the MK-V tractor

I’m just so grateful. I don’t know if Monarch really knows just how many will be impacted. This tractor is going to produce thousands of pounds of cultural foods. It’s going to be Thanksgiving year-round.

Zeke Guzman, Founder El Jardin del Pueblo 

At Monarch, we’re grateful for individuals like Zeke Guzman, who helps extend our farmer-first philosophy to farmworkers and their families, bringing together generations of knowledge on which farming depends.  

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