Nestor Estrada and one of the four horses that live on Bella Hampton Farm
Nestor Estrada and his husband, Cesar Aragon are working to create an organic paradise at Bella Hampton Farm
TAMMYE NASH | Managing Editor
Nestor Estrada moved with his family from Guatemala to the U.S. to find more opportunities for their future. But it was on a trip back to Guatemala to escape the drugs and depression that were consuming him that Estrada found his life mate, Cesar Aragon. Now the two men own Bella Hampton Farm in Kaufman County where they are working to create a paradise on earth for themselves and others.
This week, Estrada talked with Dallas Voice about where he’s been and where he’s headed.
Dallas Voice: Tell me about yourself. You are from Guatemala, right? How did you end up in North Texas? And why did you decide to have a farm? Nestor Estrada: I’m originally from Guatemala City. My parents wanted to provide a safer, more diverse future for my sister and me, so they migrated to Dallas in 1994. During the nine years that I lived in Guatemala, my family owned a coffee plantation, so I was surrounded by all the farm animals and fell in love with the farming lifestyle. We were fortunate enough that we had farm hands that could handle the day-to-day care of the animals, so my only job was to show up to pamper and love them.
I remember on one of my many trips from Dallas to Guatemala: It was during Christmas; five of the pigs were giving birth in the middle of the night, and I was woken up to witness the birth. I noticed that one of the piglets wasn’t breathing, so I immediately got a straw and performed CPR on the lifeless baby. Because of my actions, he survived. It was then that I knew that I was meant to take care of animals and give them the best possible life.
My love for horses was embedded in me as a young boy. I had horse riding lessons every Sunday.
How did you meet your husband, Cesar Aragon, and how long have you been together? Fast forward to 2001: I was self-medicating with methamphetamines, cocaine and ketamine to battle my depression and anxiety. I developed psoriasis all over my body; I thought I had HIV, leprosy or some kind of horrible infection from the drug use. I was at the lowest part of my life.
Then I was given the opportunity to travel back to Guatemala to stay with my aunt to detox. I started going to therapy three times a week. I was diagnosed with psoriasis [and started receiving] light treatments to help control the symptoms.
It was then that destiny stepped in. I was invited to a birthday party in Rio Dulce Guatemala for someone I didn’t know. I was hesitant to go because I only knew one person that was going, and it was an eight-hour trip from Guatemala. Halfway there, we met up with the other half of the party at a market on the side of the road That is when an angel stepped out of the other car, and I immediately knew that my forever soul mate was standing in front of me — Cesar.
We spent five days together during that trip, getting to know each other. I confessed about my drug abuse and the state of my mental health, [and] I told Cesar that he could move to America and get a work visa so that we could build an amazing life together. We are now going on 19 years of an amazing journey together.
What did you do before you decided to become an organic farmer? During the process of getting Cesar’s citizenship, the company that sponsored his work permit was bought out by a company in Austin. So six months after we purchased our first home in Oak Cliff, which Cesar named The Bella Hampton, we moved to Austin and emerged ourselves in our new hippie environment, where we raised 50 chickens in our backyard. We sold the eggs to our family and friends for $6 a dozen.
Whole Foods wanted to purchase our eggs, but 50 chickens was the maximum our property could properly sustain.
Fast-forward eight years: Cesar and I were married in San Francisco, and he no longer depended on a work visa. So we decided it was time to come back to The Bella Hampton. We devoted our energy and extra time to develop our own little piece of paradise in the backyard of The Bella Hampton.
Eventually we rented a farm to get out of the city. We woke up to horses and different animals every day, and we quickly realized that this is the life that we wanted to live. We know tomorrow is not promised, so we began the search for our future farm. We searched all over East Texas and fell in love with a little city named Kemp.
Before COVID, Cesar and I started Bella Hampton Garden and Design, a remodeling and design business. But it quickly became a burden due to the high demand and limited availability of goods. Navigating through COVID led me to a nervous breakdown. Cesar came in and rescued me once again from a black hole, allowing me to put a pause on Bella Hampton Garden and Design letting me focus on my well-being and total care of the animals.
Where exactly is the farm, and how large is it? Where did that name come from? The Bella Hampton Farm is located east of Dallas in Kaufman County, in the city of Kemp. Our forever home is a 900-square-foot house that sits on 10 beautiful acres full of endless possibilities. We named the farm Bella Hampton due to our love of our first piece of paradise in Oak Cliff.
About how many chickens do you have there? And about how many eggs do you get a day, and what do you do with the eggs? Can folks buy them anywhere? We currently have around 30 chickens that lay eggs daily, around 25 that will soon be laying and 45 baby chicks. Cesar and I have been raising healthy chickens that produce the most nutritious, most amazing tasting and colorful eggs, and Dallas has fallen in love with them. We also have added 30 meat chickens that will be processed in eight weeks and will be available to our customer base. These chickens are being pasture-raised where they are able to have fresh grass and sunshine and can forage for all the bugs their little hearts’ desire. We believe if we are consuming meat and poultry, we should give them the best life possible. You can get information on how to sign up for our weekly newsletter that includes a menu and order form on our Facebook page, Facebook.com/BellaHamptonFarm.
What other kinds of animals do you have on the farm? Do you grow your own vegetables, too? And do you do run the farm yourself, or do you have people who work for you? We currently have four horses, two donkeys, three cows, seven dogs, five cats, two rabbits, 14 dairy goats, nine ducks, 60-plus chickens and 20 turkeys, four of which will be the forever breeding pairs and live out their entire life on the farm. The remaining 16 turkeys will be processed and available to purchase for your holiday meals beginning in November.
We currently are growing watermelons, herbs, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers and sunflowers. It takes village to operate something of this magnitude; Cesar and I are putting a lot of hard work into this, along with our friends. My friend Jennifer and her family moved onto the farm and are huge contributors in the day-to-day operations.
Bella Hampton is an organic farm. Tell me what that means, exactly? Organic, to me, is a way of life. We source the best quality food and allow our animals to graze on pasture that is chemical-free. We believe in doing things as naturally as possible, which in turn produces a healthier and tastier product. Once you have eaten fresh from the farm products you will never want to eat conventional grown again.
I saw on your social media that you are a cyclist. Tell me about that. How did you get started? John Terlingo created Terlingo Cycle which, for me, became a way for me to find my voice and spin my anxiety away. John created a 45-minute spin class that allows you to let go of any stress, depression or anxiety. [He] asked me to become an instructor at Terlingo Cycle which contributed to me getting out of my shell and becoming the person I am today. COVID and moving to the farm have restricted my participation in the classes, and I miss them terribly. But I hope to bring [classes] to Kaufman County in the near future.
Tell me about your other hobbies and interests. And tell me about your involvement in the community — both the LGBTQ community specifically and the community in general. I am a very giving and loving person, and I’ve made a commitment to offer nutritious food options that will help to cure HIV, AIDS, cancer and mental health issues. I have dedicated my life to bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS, mental health issues and suicide prevention. The nonprofits that I am involved in are Suicide Crisis of North Texas, Fashion Stars for a Cause with Yvonne Crum, AIN Access and Information Network, Legacy Founders Cottage, The Dallas Red Foundation, Black Tie Dinner, DIFFA and many more nonprofit organizations in Dallas.
I saw that you are involved with an event called Fundraising to End Discrimination and Hate, which Arnold and Joe Pacetti are hosting on June 6. That’s the Monday after Pride weekend in Dallas, right? Tell me about that. We are raising funds to help offset the mounting legal fees of Mark Mattlage and Rob Snowden [who are] fighting in in court to regain their property, including their gay men’s resort, The Homestead at 3218, in Crawford. (Read the interview with Mattlage on Page 24 of this issue of Dallas Voice.)
I am outraged by what Mark and Rob are going through and that people can be this hateful in 2022. We are having an event at The Cathedral of Hope on June 6 to raise awareness and the funds they need. There is a GoFundMe page to raise money for them, too.
What have I not asked about that you want people to know about you and about Bella Hampton Farm? Cesar and I are creating an oasis for people to get away and live the farm lifestyle and participate in taking care of the animals. Follow our journey at @bellahamptonfarm on Facebook and @bella_hampton_farm on Instagram.