What is in this article?:
- Firebaugh, Calif., melon grower Joe L. Del Bosque is the son of a migrant farm worker; he earned his way through college as a farm worker, and his wife Maria Gloria Del Bosque is a former migrant worker who immigrated to this country with her family.
- As many as 750,000 seasonal farm workers work from planting to harvest each year in California just like the Del Bosque family did.
- California is regulatory purgatory for many businesses, agriculture particularly. Laws and agencies oversee just about everything Del Bosque does on his farm. Labor is no different.
Firebaugh, Calif., melon grower Joe L. Del Bosque takes special interest when the subject is farm workers, since he employees about 900 seasonal workers each year on his farm and packing shed, as well as for his farm labor contracting business.
It’s also “personal” since he is also the son of a migrant farm worker; he earned his way through college as a farm worker, and his wife Maria Gloria Del Bosque is a former migrant worker who immigrated to this country with her family. She now manages all the farm labor for Empresas Del Bosque, Inc.
Del Bosque’s father, Jose, migrated to California’s Imperial Valley from Mexico in the 1930s. For years he worked desert melon fields there early in the season and later, on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley.
He cringes when farm workers are portrayed as abused and neglected and considered unskilled labor. It’s describing him, a college graduate who accomplished goals in his life by working on farms.
“The area where we farm is called the West Side District,” he says. It is prime melon growing country. “There are three things that make farming work in California: soil, water and people. We have to have good people to farm. We must take care of that resource.”
Where Del Bosque farms is mile after mile of pristine fields, orchards and vineyards. There may be few people, but nothing is secret in the field or in towns. If something is amiss with workers, word travels fast. “
“Integrity is important out here. People get paid for the work they do. That’s all they ask for,” he says.
“The farm labor workforce is a skilled workforce. It is a slap in the face when someone says otherwise,” says Del Bosque. “People who write about farm workers never come out here and see what is happening. That’s disrespectful.
“The workers are are happy to have jobs. They just want to earn a living and go home at the end of the day to be with their families like everyone else.
“I grew up out here. I drove a tractor in the melon fields for my dad when I was nine years old,” said the 63-year-old Del Bosque, who farms about 2,200 acres of melons, almonds, processing tomatoes, cherries, and an organic line of cantaloupe and honeydew melons on the West Side of the SJV.
Joe’s father died in 1999 at age 87. Joe’s mother’s family worked the fields. “My mother was fortunate that she worked very little in the fields. She had many brothers, and they didn’t let her work when she was young because she was the youngest sibling.
“My father was a proud man and worked enough so my mom could be a stay-at-home mom,” Joe says.
“Only after my sisters and I were in school and old enough, my mother took us out to experience work in the fields. She had us try picking cotton, apricots, and prunes. Her intention wasn’t to give us a bad experience from farm work, but to learn that there were rewards (making money) by working for it.”