Our Hot Peppers are grown in a very special place we call Rancho Bella Vista , "farm with a beautiful view". Owned and operated by the Jimenez Family, this little slice of heaven is a place we are now fortunate enough to call home. For generations the Jimenez name has been synonymous with respect for the land and her fruits. This respect comes from deep migrant farm worker roots, and the pride of caring for "nuestra tierra" (our land). In turn, nuestra tierra has always taken care of us.
Here is what I said more than a fifteen years ago when I was starting Rancho Bella Vista as a Working Chile Pepper Farm…Boy have we come a long way! Thanks to all of you, you have helped me complete my CIRCLE OF LIFE. I will be accepting retirement as of October 1 and will have completed 35 wonderful years in state civil service the majority of these years with the Division of Rehabilitation Services. At my present age of 61 I can look back and remember how my VR Family has helped me be the person I am today. I was born in 1943 in a barrio community of South Texas. By the age of six I was going to the cotton fields with my mother to learn to pick cotton. School started at the age of seven and English is still a hard language to learn.
At the age of 14 the Presbyterian Church took an interest in this barrio kid and gave me the opportunity to attend the Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville Texas, a college preparatory school for kids from economically deprived families. At my age of 14 my first roommate was a twenty-one year old student from Kenya named Bengua. At the age of 14 I left my barrio family only to return for short holiday visits. Those Presbyterian folks are smart people.
While other schools were telling me that I was never going to amount to anything these Presbyterian folks took time to tell me that I was important, they tutored me, had patience and provided me with a World Class education environment. They also told me that God loved me and that He is always watching over me. To this day there are still times when I sneak a look up to the heavens to make sure that he is watching. When other people told me that I wouldn’t I showed them that I would and I completed undergraduate school in Oklahoma. Jobs are hard to get for college students and especially in the 1960s for Mexican students. By the way did I forget to tell you that I am Mexican?
Not being able to find work in Oklahoma I found that the Jolly Green Giant in Belvidere Illinois, was hiring farm workers. So applied I did and off to Illinois I go working some long hot summers pitching vines and working corn and peas. Jobs are hard to find in Oklahoma and Texas even with a bachelors degree and I was beginning to think that people did not like Mexicans. So once again I looked to Illinois this time responding to an add in the college paper that Illinois DMH was hiring.
The people at DMH were very nice, they were interested in me and they hired me right on the spot. I started to think that all people in Illinois were Presbyterian. But right after I started to work atDixon State School I found that someone named Uncle Sam also wanted me and even though I tried telling them there was no one named Sam in my family tree he was persistent and finally got me. Rice paddies in southeast Asia soon became familiar and I remember thinking that I would much prefer to be picking cotton in Texas. After military service I returned to Oklahoma and once again not able to find a job even though I had a degree, was a veteran and could speak English “darn good”.
Once again I called the Personnel Office at Dixon State School and they honestly told me that they had been thinking about me and I could return to work as soon as I could get there. I now knew for sure that Illinois is full of wonderful Presbyterian people.I transferred to DVR in 1972 and in 1977 I wrote the first federal grant to serve migrant and seasonal farm workers with disabilities in Illinois. This started the focus of VR in serving Latinos/Hispanics with disabilities.
I have been very fortunate to have served in different positions within VR. The last three years, nine months and 15 days has been in the position of Assistant Bureau Chief for Zone C. It is true, Illinois is a beautiful state and I love the area of Rockford in northern Illinois, I love the Mississippi River and the Quad City area and I still love and miss the diversity of Chicago and I will return often to these areas and visit. I have made my Life Circle and have bought a small farm in southern Illinois, a town of Cobden population 1500.
I never dreamed I would do such a thing but I have. I am at peace with the land and the beauty of nature. I however cannot retire completely and have challenged myself to enter the hot pepper farming business. I have been able to excite my family and we are structured as Darn Hot Peppers LLC. By late October early November check us out on the web under www.darnhotpeppers.com I am sure you will find some hot/spicy holiday gifts to surprise that special someone.
Most of all I want to Thank You. You have believed in me, encouraged me and we have done many good things together. I do envy you for you will continue to have the opportunity to reach out and be of help to many people who really need the help you can provide. Don’t forget to sneak a peak up to the heavens and you will see that God is watching over you.
Gracias and Hasta La Vista.Mucho Amor Gerardo (Jerry) Jimenez