Hector Buitrago, 64, a retiree from Colombia, South America, poses for a portrait inside his barn at HEMI Blueberry Farm Greensboro, Georgia, on Friday, March 23, 2018. Buitrago retired in December 2014 and began farming in January 2015; He now splits his time between retired life in Atlanta and farming in Greensboro.

Hector Buitrago, 64, a retiree from Colombia, South America, poses for a portrait inside his barn at HEMI Blueberry Farm Greensboro, Georgia, on Friday, March 23, 2018. Buitrago retired in December 2014 and began farming in January 2015; He now splits his time between retired life in Atlanta and farming in Greensboro.

 “Blueberries are a very good plant. If you treat them good, they treat you good.” -Héctor Buitrago, HEMI Blueberry Farm owner

Héctor Buitrago, a retired federal government employee from Colombia, South America, now lives as a farmer in Greensboro, Georgia. Farming has been in his family’s roots for years. Buitrago grew up working on his grandparents’ coffee farm in Colombia, but never expected to end up carrying on the profession.

Buitrago moved to Atlanta when his wife was transferred to a new job within the Coca-Cola company. When a friend called him about an affordable plot of land in Greensboro, Buitrago could not pass it up. He saw the land as an investment, despite not living in the same city or having an initial plan for its purpose.

Twenty-three years passed before anything became of his Greensboro property. A few years before his retirement from the EPA and CDC, a researcher and friend from the University of Georgia reached out to Buitrago with a suggestion on what to do with the land. He told him about different varieties of blueberries that grew well in central Georgia.

The seed had been planted.

Buitrago decided to test grow some blueberries in his Atlanta-area home before making the leap to a full-scale farming operation on his 21 acres in Greensboro. After successfully growing the plants in Atlanta, he began planning for expansion. On January 1, 2015, just one day after retiring, Buitrago went to his property to start the farm from the ground up. Over the course of the first year, he designed the barn and living quarters, planted the first set of crops and installed the irrigation system himself.

Fast forward three years to 2018 and HEMI Blueberry farm is in full swing. Buitrago splits his time between farming in Greensboro and family life in Atlanta where his wife still works and resides. She spends time in Greensboro on the weekends, but hopes to retire in 2019 so the pair can relocate full-time to the farm.

Despite being retired, Buitrago stays considerably busy year round with his blueberries. He attributes his physical health to his busy, farming lifestyle.

“The reward is health,” Buitrago said, “and thinking that I am giving something to the people with natural blueberries and good products.”