Farmworker Awareness Week 2023: Meet the People Who Feed You
March 29, 2023
In the aftermath of a slate of storms that have inundated Northern California farms and rural communities, National Farmworker Awareness Week (March 25-31) is a welcome opportunity to show our appreciation for the people who feed us, and support their recovery efforts. As illustrated by this year’s theme, “Things Are Heating Up for Workers,” harmful working conditions brought on by climate change are just one set of challenges that farmworkers face, as are policies that affect a largely undocumented Latino workforce.
In honor of Cesar Chavez Day, Foodwise invited Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Mission Community Market farms to introduce us to some of their dedicated team members. Here are a few of their stories. For more, check out the stories from 2021 and 2022, too. Today and every day, we’re grateful for all of the farmworkers who bring their specialized skills and knowledge, decades of experience, and passion to the hard work of reliably connecting us with fresh, locally grown food, rain or shine.
Alvaro Contreras, Far West Fungi
Alvaro is an essential person in the production of our mushroom substrate at Far West Fungi in Moss Landing. His position, crew supervisor, entails working long hours and often being the first to arrive in the morning and one of the last to leave. His attention to detail is crucial in making substrate recipes for different varieties of mushrooms. He also manages the pickers and makes decisions regarding when to harvest specific mushrooms in terms of temperatures and customer needs. We are happy to have had him on our crew for almost 20 years and recently also hired his son to work with us!
Text and photo by Far West Fungi, Ferry Plaza, Saturday; Mission Community, Thursday.
Dan Ziegler, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Dan Ziegler is the Dairy Manager at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. in West Marin, California. Dan is an integral part of our operation, overseeing all aspects of the dairy and the production of the milk for our cheese. He leads a dairy team of six, taking care of approximately 450 milking cows, which are all born onsite.
Dan started his own dairy farm in Wisconsin and ran it for nearly 10 years. Before landing at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., he moved 12 times throughout the Midwest looking for the right fit. He feels a real sense of belonging thanks to the support of the owners and team members he works with daily. The gorgeous surroundings and views of Tomales Bay are an added bonus.
Dan loves sharing his knowledge and passion of the dairy industry, be it giving tours to the consumer and trade vendors that visit the farm, or the team members that he works with. By sharing that knowledge and passion he gets to show all the animal care, producing the highest quality milk.
Text and photo by Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Ferry Plaza, Saturday.
Leonardo Montes Soriano, The Peach Jamboree
Leonardo Montes Soriano is our expert orchardist here at The Peach Jamboree. He has been working on this small 6.5 acre orchard since 1991, back when it was known as Woodleaf Farm and owned by Carl Rosato. Without a doubt, Leo is a huge part of the magic behind the delicious fruit from our farm. He is a master at tending the trees. He knows exactly how and when to pick the most perfectly ripe fruit, and he always has the warmest, biggest smile on his face, especially when he heads to farmers market to sell the delicious peaches.
He says pruning and picking are his favorite things to do here. He’s a great motivator and inspires all of us, as his enthusiasm is contagious. One of the only things he doesn’t like is being out in the cold and rain! So he’s a snowbird and flies home to Oaxaca to be with his family during the off season, where he owns his own tortilla business.
He loves his family and this farm, and especially likes bringing the harvest to the customers at the farmers markets. We love Leo and are so grateful for his lasting dedication to this farm. The peaches wouldn’t be as sweet without him!
Text and photos by The Peach Jamboree, Ferry Plaza, Saturday.
Rogelio Nabor, Blue House Farm
Rogelio has been with Blue House for almost 12 years! He is essential to Blue House because he has a comprehensive understanding of the operation, a deep knowledge of farming, and a high level of skill in the field. He is solution-oriented, and you can often hear him saying “todo es posible” when faced with a challenge. He thinks ahead and helps make decisions that benefit the business and ultimately our consumers!
When asked, the most important part of the job to him is the quality of the produce we are sending out to our customers. He does multiple field walks a week and will advise the team on where and how to harvest to ensure good quality. “If we sell a good quality product then we will continue to have work and the company can grow, so we want to do the best that we can.”
He, along with the majority of our team, is from Oaxaca. He has been working in the fields in the US for almost 30 years now. Mostly in vegetables, with a few years of flower experience. He has been able to start a family here and has three children. His oldest daughter is currently attending college.
Text and photo by Blue House Farm, Mission Community, Thursday.
Carlos, Jose, Martin, Eubaldo, Angel, Enriqueta, Maria, Alfredo, Alfredo, Justin, Julia, Ismael, Aurelio, Ranulfo, Antonio, Eleazar, Jesus, Julieta, Star Route Farms
These are the women and men of Star Route Farms Thermal! Most of the crew have been with the farm for several years, some over 10! As is usual on farms we have multiple families with two, three, or more members working with us presently or in the past. And some returning after working elsewhere for a while, like Angel Alba, who ran the farm back in the 1990s, then went and did a long stint at Color Spot Nurseries.
Meanwhile, Angel’s youngest brother Taurino and nephew started working at the Bolinas farm. His nephew, Martin Alba, later ran the desert location for many years before also taking a sabbatical. Martin too has now returned. And, Angel’s sister Enriqueta is one of the ladies in a face bandana! The ladies like to cover up, since there is a lot of wind and dust these days in the desert. Plus it was cold, with snow on the mountains.
Text and photo by Star Route Farms, Ferry Plaza, Saturday.