Joe and Marie are compassionate about those who work the fields and packing sheds. Watching Marie interact, the mutual respect between her as a farm owner and them as workers is obvious. Joe says it is her ability to communicate with crews that makes her so valuable. She’s family; not just boss. It is very evident that her pleasant smile and ability to communicate well in Spanish puts workers at ease.

As this reporter asked that she and Joe pose with a young asparagus harvester for a photograph, it was obvious she made him feel at ease. He was wearing his baseball cap with the bill to the side, which is the style today. As she told him that the photographer wanted to take his photo, he smiled and shifted his cap for the bill to be in front of his face without her asking. There was respect for Marie with that simple gesture.

“He is from Merced. He drove all the way down here to work today,” she said. That is at least a 60-mile round trip.

“There is a lot of carpooling. Word of mouth is what brings workers to where the jobs are,” says Joe. “They just show up in the fields to work.”

California is regulatory purgatory for many businesses, agriculture particularly. There is a myriad of laws and agencies overseeing just about everything Joe does on his farm. Labor is no different.

It is such a critical element, there is a statewide, non-profit organization called AgSafe that is designed to maintain a healthy, viable agricultural labor force.

AgSafe is an organization comprised of individuals, associations and businesses with the shared mission of preventing injuries, illness and fatalities among those working in agriculture from planting to processing. Its goal is to give employers the tools needed to keep employees safe and healthy, while continuing to run a profitable, successful business.

Del Bosque is chairman of AgSafe. AgSafe is one of the largest agricultural organizations in the state. Its board of directors include representatives from the biggest farming organizations in the state like Grimmway Farms, Driscoll Strawberries, Harris Farms, Fetzer Vineyards, Del Monte and Western Growers.

AgSafe organizes and promotes educational activities, conferences, regional meetings, applied research, and the collection, interpretation and dissemination of agricultural health, safety and human resource information to enhance the effectiveness of the agricultural safety professional.

“We give employers the tools needed to keep employees safe and healthy while continuing to run a profitable, successful business,” says Amy Wolfe, AgSafe president and CEO. AgSafe is based in Modesto, Calif.