2022 Farmworker Awareness Week: Meet the Essential People Who Feed You

March 25, 2022

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Even at the farmers market, we do not always get to meet and thank the hardworking people who dedicate their lives to growing and harvesting our food. National Farmworker Awareness Week occurs March 25 through 31, and it provides an opportunity for us to honor farmworkers’ important contributions to our food system and communities. With 85% of our fresh fruits and vegetables being handpicked, it’s undeniable that our wellbeing is bound to that of farmworkers. This is captured in this year’s Farmworker Awareness Week’s theme: Todos Unidos (“bound together”). 

In celebration of National Farmworker Awareness Week and Cesar Chavez’s birthday, we asked our Ferry Plaza Farmers Market farms to shine a light on some of the team members who are vital to their farming operations. These heroes bring their specialized skills and knowledge, decades of experience, and passion to keeping us well fed. Here are a few of their stories. (For more, check out the stories from last year, too.)

Isidro Ruiz, Frog Hollow Farm

Isidro (pictured above) is one of the hardest working guys on our field team. He has an impeccable work ethic, is really observant, and often advises Farmer Al Courchesne on field conditions. Isidro’s quiet, thoughtful leadership does not go unnoticed! Farmer Al is thankful for how dependable he is in leading the crews in irrigation, weed control, and planting activities. Whenever we are short-staffed packing for our mail order and CSA programs, Isidro is quick to jump right in and help! It’s just one example of what a reliable and thoughtful person he is. Thank you Isidro for your leadership and hard work on the farm for the past 15 years!

Text and photo by Frog Hollow Farm, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Saturday.

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Norma Munoz Castro, Tierra Vegetables

Norma has been working with Tierra Vegetables for six years. She manages the commercial kitchen and seeds in the greenhouses. The greenhouses are essential, as over half of our crops start in the greenhouse, and the kitchen is essential to our income from processed crops, such as the masa, cornmeal, and dried chilies. Not many people realize how much work is done in the greenhouse. While many farms actually buy their transplants, we seed all of them in our own greenhouse. Norma likes working in the greenhouse the best because it’s tranquil and out in a beautiful location with birds. Norma‘s family has also worked with Tierra Vegetables, too. She enjoys working with her father and her mother, who is here often. Her children are learning about the field and the planting.

Text and photo by Tierra Vegetables, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Saturday.

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Marc Martin, Devil’s Gulch Ranch

Marc Martin is a trainee at Devil’s Gulch Ranch. Marc is from Haiti and has a J-1 visa Traineeship (Exchange Program). Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, owner of Devil’s Gulch Ranch, has been going to Haiti and other countries, teaching agriculture. Myriam has also participated in USAID Farmer to Farmer exchanges since 2007, where she teaches income generating agriculture with organizations like Makouti Agro Enterprise in Haiti. (If you are interested in hosting a J-1 Trainee, please contact Myriam at DGEdServices@gmail.com.) Trainees like Marc help future and current farmers strengthen the global network, share ideas, build relationships, and diversify food sources. 

Marc says, “ I had the chance to have some experiences in agriculture and farming in my country (Haiti) before and after college. First, I grew up with my parents who were farmers. Secondly, after my studies in Geography and Urban Planning, I had the chance to experience agriculture and farming with a local agronomic association, Makouti Agro Enterprise. Generally, I enjoy farming. I love working with animals and taking care of them. There is a variety of livestock here, such as: pigs, goats, sheep, pigeons, and livestock guardian dogs, but the ones I love working with most are the rabbits and the chickens. I enjoy feeding them and taking care of the baby rabbits. I also enjoy the atmosphere of this place because it’s calm. I’m learning farming skills here that I can use in Haiti. After the exchange program, I will be back in my country and share the skills and experiences with my community.”

Text and photo by Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Saturday.

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Gabriel Hernandez, Far West Fungi

Gabriel has been working at Far West Fungi for close to a decade. He started in 2014 as a forklift driver, but within a year he was promoted to pack manager. He is currently still managing our packing facility. We are so grateful to have him as an essential farmworker in our business. Gabriel is essential because of the organization and the array of ideas he brings to the table. He is a natural born leader and is quick on his feet, able to pivot with all of the challenges that have been facing all farmworkers in recent times. If there’s a problem in the pack he turns it around for the better. He keeps our packaging team organized and on schedule, always available to help out when a coworker is out sick or to hop on a forklift to help load a truck. He is passionate about what he does, and from that passion comes so many ideas of different ways he could improve packaging processes. After all of these years, Gabriel’s fiery passion has never dimmed, he comes to work with a smile every day no matter the situation. If you’re passing by the pack you may just hear him sing his heart out while he’s at work.

Text and photo by Far West Fungi, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Saturday.

On March 31, Cesar Chavez Day, farmworkers will fan out to major California cities and across agricultural areas to hold human billboards to ask Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act (AB 2183-Stone). RSVP here.

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