California Farmworkers Share “A Day in the Life” Growing Your Food

Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
March 21, 2024

Luis Bernabe prunes trees on Frog Hollow Farm. Photo by Frog Hollow Farm.

Farmworkers in California produce a third of the United States’ vegetables and nearly two-thirds of our fruits and nuts. These agricultural workers are our neighbors, and they are essential to our food system. Yet we hardly get to meet them, and many of us have a limited understanding of what farm work looks like. As we approach National Farmworker Awareness Week (March 25-31), we’re sharing a few stories from dedicated, talented individuals who work at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market farms, sowing, growing, and harvesting our food. 

Hear from Luis, Maclovio, and Pablo about what their day-to-day on the farm looks like, what they find rewarding about growing food, and what they wish the rest of us understood about the work they do. Ninety-six percent of California farmworkers identify as Hispanic/Latine, and two of the following farmworker stories have been translated into English, with the original Spanish responses below.

Someone poses in front of blossoming trees.
Luis Bernabe. Photo by Frog Hollow Farm.

Luis Bernabé, Frog Hollow Farm

Hello, my name is Luis Bernabé. I have been working here at Frog Hollow Farm for almost 15 years, and I’m proud to be here.

My day starts at 7 am. Right now, since it is the season, we are pruning the trees. We work on a certain block in the orchard, then we sweep everything so the ground is even and everything is very clean. We finish at 3:30 pm and we’re back in our homes, content.

One of the things I like most about my job is that, since I was a child, I’ve really liked the countryside. Here in the orchard, seeing the trees bloom, seeing the process of fruit growing, it’s very beautiful. The truth about my work here is that we have the privilege of seeing this very, very beautiful process that is growing fruit.

Before [COVID], it’s likely that most people didn’t understand much about what field work or agricultural work is. But during the time of COVID, many people realized the importance of farms, that it takes a whole process to get that fruit to your table so you can consume it. Doctors, engineers, lawyers, they all eat. The truth is that if work on the farm stops, the food supply stops.

Hola, mi nombre es Luis Bernabé. Tengo casi 15 años trabajando aquí en Frog Hollow Farm y es un orgullo estar aquí.

Mi día comienza a las 7 am. Ahorita que es él temporadas andamos podando los árboles, iniciamos, terminamos cierto bloque, barremos todo lo que es la brocha para que se pueda moler y quede todo muy limpio, muy parejo. Ya terminamos a las 3:30 de la tarde y en nuestras casas muy contentos.

De las cosas que más me gustan de mi trabajo es que desde niño me gusta mucho el campo. Aquí en la huerta, ver florecer los árboles, ver el proceso de crecimiento de la fruta es algo muy bonito. Me siento muy orgulloso de estar aquí, de permanecer. Mi trabajo aquí, que la verdad es algo que tenemos el privilegio de ver este proceso muy, muy hermoso que es la fruta.

Antes [COVID], a lo mejor no lo entendíamos mucho, lo que es el trabajo del campo, el trabajo agrícola, pero del tiempo de COVID mucha gente se dio cuenta de la importancia del campo, de que lleva todo un proceso para que pueda llegar esa fruta a su mesa para poder este consumirla. Que la verdad la consumen doctores, ingenieros, abogados, Todo viene del campo y la verdad si el campo se detiene, la comida.

Someone holds up a flat of seedlings on a farm.
Maclovio. Photo by Green Thumb Farms.

Maclovio E., Green Thumb Farms

I have been working for five years with Green Thumb Farms. My daily tasks include first checking if the plants are dry to water. Depending on what the plant needs, that’s what the day will consist of, such as checking that the irrigation system is running smoothly, weeding, planting, harvesting, and checking machinery like the tractor for maintenance. 

I feel comfortable doing my job. I have been in the agriculture industry for the past 12 years. Throughout this journey I have been able to work and master different skills. I enjoy caring for the land and also hearing back about how customers enjoy the food we cultivate. I want customers to be appreciative of our products. I hope they value our hard work because we do it with love.

A farmworker holds a cat on a farm.
Pablo Duran. Photo by Tierra Vegetables.

Pablo Duran, Tierra Vegetables

I have been on the same farm, Tierra Vegetables, for 27 years. 

I start my day at 7 am. Sometimes, we are cleaning, cultivating, sometimes we are observing, irrigating. In April, we plant all the corn. After sowing, we check that the plants have water, that they are not going to dry out. Cultivate, pick, sow, plant, and that’s it.

I finish at 4 pm. If it is very windy, sometimes I finish at 5 pm because I need to arrange for the irrigation of plants early the next day. We need to water earlier because after 12 pm, it is too windy.

When I started working, I didn’t know what to do, how to start or where to start. But now it’s not very difficult because I already know all the work that has to be done here.

I am proud of my job. I love this agricultural work, and even more so that it is growing organic vegetables. I enjoy it a lot, and I am happy working here.

I want more people to know about this type of work and for more to do it. I do my job well, and I would like for more people to do it like me.

Tengo 27 años en la misma granja, Tierra Vegetables.

Yo comienzo a las 7 am. A veces andamos limpiando, cultivando, a veces andamos este buscando a ver, poniendo agua. En tiempo de Abril sembramos todo el maíz. Después de sembrar, este checar que tengan agua las plantas, que no se vayan a secar. Cultivar, pizcar, sembrar, plantar y ya.

Yo termino a las cuatro. Depende, si está haciendo mucho aire a veces termino a las cinco porque necesito acomodar tipas para el riego de otro día temprano, porque este necesitamos regar temprano, porque después de las 12 del día hace mucho aire y ya no se puede regar.

Como para trabajo no hay difícil. Era cuando yo empecé a a trabajar, que no sabía qué hacer, cómo empezar ni por dónde empezar. Pero pues ahorita no es muy difícil porque ya sé todo el trabajo que se tiene que hacer aquí.

Cuando hace mucho viento, me quedo una hora más a poner pipas de aluminio para el riego, para que esté temprano otro día. Entro a las 06:00 porque tiene que empezar uno a poner riego temprano. Porque ya después de las 12 hace aire y ya no hay tiempo de regar las plantas.

Yo estoy orgulloso de mi trabajo porque me encanta este trabajo de agricultura y más que es de vegetales orgánicos. Me encanta mucho y yo lo disfruto mucho. Soy feliz aquí trabajando.

Quiero que más gente sepa este tipo de trabajo y que más que lo hicieran. Este lo que me gustaría que entendiera que quisiera bien el trabajo para como así me gustaría que todas las personas que hicieran el trabajo así como yo lo hago.

Support Frog Hollow Farm and Tierra Vegetables at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday, and Green Thumb Farms at the Ferry Plaza on Saturday and Tuesday and Mission Community Market on Thursday.

Interview and translation assistance provided by Nesley Rojo.

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