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.
It’s all about the American dream. People come here to work hard to do better for themselves and their families. “They want their children to be the doctors and lawyers,” he says.
As many as 750,000 seasonal farm workers work from planting to harvest each year in California just like the Del Bosque family did.
(For more, see: Immigration reform heavily favored in survey)
Del Bosque began his own farm in 1985 after several years of custom farming. “My father moved the family here in 1953 and spent many years as a farm manager,” says Joe. Jose Del Bosque was considered a premier melon grower, and Joe inherited that reputation from learning from his father.
“My dad worked for an old Armenian farmer who had grown melons in the valley since 1915. I grew up learning hard work and melon growing from my dad,” Joe said.
“Joe is one outstanding melon grower,” says University of California IPM specialist Pete Goodell, who has worked with Del Bosque on research projects. Del Bosque is involved in many areas to improve his farming, including the almond sustainable farming program. He has hosted field days in his orchards to allow UC entomologists to demonstrate sustainable practices.
Joe’s skills were the reason he got a start in farming on his own. His reputation at custom farming was evident in the field, and it earned him financing from Anderson-Clayton to get started. Joe is embarrassed to say what his financial statement looked like when he applied for credit at Anderson-Clayton. It would not buy a tanker load of diesel today.
“It was not easy getting started, but Anderson-Clayton took a chance on me because they had seen what I could do in the fields,” he said. “Your reputation means everything out here.”
Joe graduated from Dos Palos High School and went to California State University in 1967. He paid for his school from working in the fields and with a little help from a wrestling scholarship. However, he had to drop out for four years to work. He returned to school later and earned his degree in 1975.
Joe has always been active outside of his farm. He is a member in a number of organizations: Western Growers, California Certified Organic Farmers, California Farm Water Coalition, Family Farm Alliance, AgSafe, and the California Latino Water Coalition.
In 2009, the Latino water coalition organized one of the most significant public demonstrations in valley history when 10,000 people, farmers, farm workers, political leaders and others marched 30 miles over three days from Mendota to San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos protesting water delivery reduction to farmers.
“It was really tough with so little water. A lot of people were out of work because the farmers did not have water. I had to cut back the acreage I farmed, but I never laid off any workers. They did not get as many hours as they had, but I kept them working,” he said.
The march is a great source of pride for Del Bosque. “The march started right here on my farm. Farm workers are pretty reserved. When I asked our workers if they wanted to march, they said ‘yes’ to demonstrate to the public how important water was to them for making a living,” he said. He is still amazed at the turnout and support from across the valley.
“We were needing things for the march as it became organized. Someone said we needed water and all of a sudden seven pallets of bottled water showed up that someone bought from Costco,” he says. “It was all about the farm workers because they wanted to work, but there was no work because of the cutbacks in water deliveries.”