With the growing concern of pesticides in our food, and conventional growing practices leading to food allergies, Marco and Talitha Ulloa began growing food in their back yard in 2012 in their California home. They had some excess, and began to give it away to people in need. The lack of basic education on prevention of chronic illness and poverty through eating healthy food was apparent. After multiple visits to Central America over several years, they decided to move their family to Costa Rica in 2014, to live and work with impoverished coastal families, teaching the importance of a balanced diet for good health, and how to care for the earth through sustainable food production.
The Ulloa Family lived in Esterillos Oeste, Costa Rica for almost two years. During this time, they started several gardens where hundreds of pounds of produce were grown and given away to families in need. They re-introduced various vegetables, like taro, eggplant, and chaya, that had lost favor with the encroaching popularity of the Western diet. Education was provided on the importance of a balanced diet, rich with a variety of healthy foods.
The Ulloas moved back to Santa Barbara in 2016 for their daughter to finish high school. Marco continued Vida Raiz with a donated plot of land, where he grew vegetables that were given away to various helps groups such as, a senior lunch program, The Cancer Center, The Rescue Mission, and other food donation programs.
Marco was then invited to Canoa, Ecuador after the 2016 earthquake to help start a vegetable garden for a camp of 30 families who had lost their homes. Marco taught the importance of incorporating vegetables and fruits in their diet, which was mainly rice and fried meat. With the help of the townspeople, they build enough raised beds to support the camp. This encouraged them to also start small family gardens next to their tents.
In 2018, Vida Raiz Farmworks became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so that they could work permanently with these at-risk communities. They moved back to Costa Rica (minus one child who moved on to college) with the goal to empower at-risk young adults to improve their quality of life by teaching them the trade of agriculture. Their goal over the next year is to purchase a working farm and incorporate an in-residence training program for young adults that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to be successful.