South Dade News Leader, April 14 1982
Father's memory carried on through sons' play
When 24- year old Steve Borek died two years ago, he left his wife Teena with
a farm and two young sons, Steve Jr. now four, and Michael now three. Teena says there are not many 24 year-old men who
farm on their own. Shes very proud of what her husband accomplished in his short
life. Teena had first met Steve when they were both working on his fathers farm. She
had never farmed before that. Now that he is gone, she runs the 500-acre
farm they started together by herself. But rather than talk about the seed corn, beans and
potatoes she grew this year, she talks about her sons and their interest in farming.
Teena not only tells her children about their father and how important
farming was to him, but shows them. Little Steve has farming in his blood, she
says. In their backyard, Steve and Michael play in the sand that was put there by their
father shortly before he died.
While Teena is trying to instill in her children a love of farming so they
will remember their father and what he stood for, her brothers in law, Bobby, Joey and
Tommy Borek, have given the children toy farming equipment. Pieces of equipment that could
not be bought were made.
Borek, 4, and his brother behind him, Michael, 3, have a vast collection of farm toys,
some made at home, to simulate the family farm operation. Their widowed mother believes
they are having a love of farming instilled in them.
Steve dreamed up the idea of an irrigation system mounted to his little farm truck
himself. One of his uncles helped him make it. It consists of a lawn sprinkler connected
to a hose and it works just like his mothers irrigation truck.
The children have a facsimile of a Side-Dresser; a piece of equipment used
for fertilizing that they made from a coffee can mounted onto a truck. Sixteen-year-old
Uncle Tommy built them a wooden semi-truck to haul their crops in.
On the south east corner of the well-dragged, well spread-out sand pile is a
tire with a flag on it to designate where the field well is.
Teena had a chain-link fence constructed between her yard and her
real farm equipment. The boys
like to get up on the big tractors. They dont realize how easy they could fall and
get hurt, she says.
Steve and Michael used to climb on their mothers trucks to play with
the metal disk that covers the end of the muffler, so a muffler has been placed
perpendicular on their play farm, and the boys have it to play around with.
Teena feels Steve Jr. has the qualities it takes to become a farmer. Even at
his tender age, he will ride with her on a tractor in the field all day and not have
enough. Younger brother Michael is satisfied with two hours of riding, but then at three
years of age, one gets tired and needs naps.
Michael is Steves crew on the back-yard farm. They spend all
their time when theyre at home out there. Says Teena.
One wonders if Steve Sr., were he still alive, would recognize that sand pile
he put in the yard for his boys.
On the south end of the childrens farm sits a fertilizer tank that has
been made into a storage shed for the boys equipment. Young Steve says his John
Deere is his best tractor. He talks like one of the grown farmers, says Teena
I enrolled him in pre-kindergarten this year so he can be with others his age. He
can tell you what the name of the fertilizer is that I used this spring; he just absorbs
all there is to know about farming.
Teena thinks about the shortage of farming land. Most of it is going to
nurseries and construction, she says And not enough young boys are growing up
to be farmers like their fathers.
Steve Sr. attended South Dade High School and had been farming since the age
of 10. Teena hopes her sons will do the same, even though farming has numerous problems.
Last year the freeze took much of her corn crop. There is an employee
problem- she finds leaves and vines in the hampers that should be full of beans. But in
spite of it all, Teena is making it in farming and believes her sons can too.
Against all odds, Teena Boreks still
Miami Herald Thursday August
Story by Betsy Fishman
Photos by Peter Andrew Bosch
Borek was a farmer. One of Joe Boreks five sons, he was part of a farming dynasty in
Homestead. At 24, he could have run his 500-acre vegetable farm with his eyes closed. His
wife Teena grew up in a fishing town in Newfoundland, and didnt know a fungicide
from a fertilizer. She kept the books while Steven ran the farm. She was a full-time
mother to their two young sons, Steven Jr. and Michael. All that changed Aug. 12,
1980, when Stevens pickup plunged into the canal adjacent to the Borek house. He
died. It was 14 days before the planting season was to begin. Suddenly, Teena Borek had a
farm to run.
height, with blond curls and dark sunglasses, the 31 year old could double for Jessica
Lange in Country, one of a crop of 1984 movies that focused on the strong farm
woman as a classic American character. Borek is the only female vegetable row crop farmer
in Dade county, but she finds nothing remarkable about her accomplishments. Life demanded
something of her, she says, as it does of most people.Everybody thought, Gee,
thats fantastic, look what shes doing, she said I dont
know how to do anything else, so it wasnt such a big choice. I did what I had to do.
There wouldnt have been any future for my boys if I hadnt.
So the planting for the 1980 season went on at Steven Borek Farms. It was the
first year the couple had contracted to sell seed corn and it would have been their first
big year farming apart from the Borek family, in their new house on Coconut Palm Drive.
It wasnt the season Borek expected, but it was a season, and
there were a farm and a house left at the end. A great deal of the credit for that, she
says, goes to her husbands family, especially his brothers Joe Jr. and Bobby, and to
the Homestead farming community.
Joey and Bobby and everybody in Dade County pulled me through that season. Farmers
in Homestead are good people. It wasnt just words. They were there for me for months
afterwards. They followed through.
Borek spent a lot of that first year at the Dade County Agricultural Center.
Then, as now, she found advice on everything from her four crops- beans, tomatoes,
potatoes and seed corn- to farm computer programs.
Every major program that I go to that involves crops she works with,
shes there, says Richard Tyson, an extension agent who helped Borek with
nutrient sprays for her beans.
She has always been one to attend workshops and schools and keep
up on things, says Seymour Goldweber, president of the Dade County Agri-Council, of
which Borek is a director. She has never been afraid to ask questions.
Borek said, I go around and talk to everybody and take a little bit of
what everybody says.
Five seasons after her husbands death, Borek says she has a lot to
learn. She relies heavily on her foreman,
Julian Dahl, to handle the fieldwork. Last season, she turned off her tomato field
sprinklers too soon after a freeze. Luckily her brothers and neighbors drove by and yelled
for her to turn them back on.She lost 40 acres of beans to the freeze. When it
froze, you got to stay in bed, and the next morning it looked real pretty out there
because the trees were all covered with ice, like little crystal teepees. But I lost my
shirt in it.
Teena pulls out a
long, mounted photograph of the Newfoundland fishing community where she grew up. There is
water and earth and sky as far as the eye can see, and very few houses.
Now you know why I like the wide open
spaces, she says quietly.
Outside, behind the house where patio furniture usually goes, are a dozen huge pieces of
farm equipment- Oliver tractors and Amco harrows. They look like a childs set of
green farm toys on a grand scale.
Out here, time is measured by the plantings and the harvests. Life revolves around the
land. Even romance begins here.
My aunt lived here and my husband irrigated for his father across the
way. Thats how I met Steven.
She stayed with her aunt for three years, and returned to Newfoundland to
study accounting. Halfway through the year, she and Steven decided to marry in
We came back in the middle of the potato season. That was our
honeymoon, at the potato grader.
He loved farming with a passion, says his wife.
The Homestead community remembers her husband every year with an annual
Steven Borek Memorial Tractor Pulling Contest.
farming allows Borek to be her own boss, the work in some seasons demands nearly all her
time. In South Dade, most farmers rent their land in parcels scattered across the county.
Borek has acreage behind her house, in the Redland, on Krome Avenue and Kendall Drive, and
near Homestead Air Force Base. She is constantly on the road, helping her two full time
workers, Jose Luna and Auscenio Ramirez, and her foreman move equipment and prepare the
Borek is looking forward to this season, when Michael will be going to school
a full day and she wont have to rush back across the county to pick him up at noon.
I like to be in business on my own because, for example, Im a room mother. If
I need to go to a party at the school at 11 Oclock, I can. But you also end up being
at work 24 hours a day.
Steven and Michael were 3 and 1 when their father died, too young to know him
very well. But the Borek genes run strong. Steven desperately wants to be a farmer; it is
virtually all he talks about. At age 8, he mostly longs to run the diskers by himself.
Stevie can sit on a tractor for hours, making noises to himself. Hes just like
his daddy. Steven ran a disker, when he was 6.
Michael, 6, enjoys the farm, but his dream is to be a pilot. Last year, he cajoled a
babysitter into reading him his fathers flight books.
Im going to be on a farm because theres more places to take
off from.. Ill let Steven take care of the tractors. He likes them. Ill take
care of the animals, thats easy.
Borek says farming
is a gift her sons have, that the Borek family has, but that she does not share. She
claims she has a Black Thumb
The people of Homestead will tell you something different.
Shes a darn good farm manager, said Ivonne Alexander, vice
president of the Homestead branch of Farm Credit Service, a national farm cooperative.
She went against all the odds. Everyone respects her. Its tough
to do your thing and raise two boys, and raise em pretty darn good.
She wasnt born a Borek, or born a farmer, says brother in
law Joe Borek Jr., one of the five Borek sons who farms about 2,000 acres in Homestead. Shes learned a lot; shes really
done a good job. Anything she wants to try, she tries. She tried cherry tomatoes, and we
told her not to. She takes care of her grove, and none of us really know anything about
She is also one of the first in the area to use computers, working with Joe
Dalton at the research station to implement programs specifically suited to South Florida
crops. In addition to her involvement in the Agri-Council and Women in Agriculture, Borek
is also donating time and equipment to help extension agent Tyson with some experiments on
I have a lot of personal admiration for Teena. Says Bob Epling,
president of Community Bank of Homestead, which has loaned her money over the last five
years and worked with her on computerized farming.
To be a good mother and a good farmer is something very few of us could
do. I consider her a leader in agriculture.
At least one Dade grower has planted a crop.
The Record Vol. 28, No. 38
"Everybody is in the same boat," Tina Borek, a Dade County seed corn and potato
farmer told THE RECORD in a phone interview, Tuesday.
Borek, like most other farmers in the southern Dade Country area, lost about
everything.Most of her house, made of cinder block construction, remained. "The roof
leaks and the addition blew away," she said. All the windows blew out, she said, but
the cleaning up process was proceeding.
Borek managed to salvage a planter and get it working. She obtained a seed
corn contract from DeKalb and has already planted sixty acres.
"It's nice to see something green growing amidst all the devastation," she said.
"We will not make much of a crop here this year. If we had, with the fair trade
agreement, we would have been hurt anyway.
When asked if
there was anything anyone could do to help, she simply responded "No, I don't think
so. It will just take some time to clean up." She feared some illegal dumping may
occur in the farmer's fields following Dade County's reinstatement of charges for the use
Borek said none of her children sustained any injuries. They spent the night
Andrew came through huddled in the closet.
Agriculture - The 2004 Winner: Martina "Teena" Borek
Fruit & Vegetable Association - Florida Woman of the Year
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Women in Agriculture
Heartland - Heirloom Harvest