News From the Farm | March 21, 2016

Periodically in this newsletter, we share stories from our employees.  This week we talked with one of our long-time employees, Jose Gomez Imperial.

Jose was born and grew up in the state of Sinaloa in a tiny town called Ejido Vinaterias, which is about 20 minutes outside of a larger town called Los Mochis.  Los Mochis was the town that people from Ejido Vinaterias went when they needed supplies, and when you ask Jose where he is from, he will often say, ‘Los Mochis’.

Ejido Vinaterias has grown quite a bit, so maybe there is more going on there now, but Jose hasn’t been back since 2007, so he isn’t too sure.  He grew up with his mother and 2 brothers – a family of boys.

Jose and his brothers went to the local school, but when Jose turned 12, he started working with his mother picking vegetables. She was paid according to how many boxes she picked, so if she had help, she was able to pick more boxes.  The schools were scheduled to make it possible for the kids to work – In the mornings the kids worked in the fields, picking squash, chilies and tomatoes, and in the afternoon they went to school.

Jose liked to work – more-or-less.  At any rate, he didn’t want to be in the house all the time.  The farms in Sinaloa are very big, growing lots of vegetables and exporting them to the United States, often to California.  Jose says that a lot of his friends started working full-time when they were 10 or 11 years old – right after finishing elementary school. A lot of those kids, even if they said they were going to return to school, didn’t ever make it back.  The economy wasn’t so great and the kids got used to having money – so they just kept working.

Jose finished his high-school-level schooling, but his two brothers were not able to.  Jose says that the schools he went to were very different from schools in Esparto that his kids now attend. In Mexico he had to buy everything for himself – notebooks, textbooks and pencils.

When Jose turned 18 (almost 18 years ago), he moved to the United States. He came here for work.  There wasn’t a lot of work in Mexico, and mostly it was very seasonal.  Farm work stops from May through August in Sinaloa because it is too hot to grow anything.  During the summer, a lot of people go to Nogales and work in factories, moving back and forth from Nogales to Los Moches.

Jose arrived in the Capay Valley almost immediately upon moving to the U.S.  He worked for a short time on a different farm, but has worked at Full Belly pretty much the whole time that he has been in the United States.  When he arrived he didn’t know how to drive, and relied on one of his brothers who was also working at Full Belly.

Jose has a family here in the Capay Valley. They live 30 minutes away from Full Belly, in the town of Esparto.  His wife Catalina also works at Full Belly, a key part of the packing shed operation.  Jose and Catalina have 3 children, two girls and one boy ranging in ages from 5 years to 14 years old.  The kids go to school in Esparto, with ambitions to take up professions like doctors, lawyers, astronauts and firemen. All of them were born in the U.S. and all are bilingual

Jose says the only people who can study professions in Mexico are people who have relatives in the U.S. sending money home for their studies. He is happy that his children are in school thinking about their future.

Years ago, Jose went to the farmers market once a week, and also helped with deliveries in the Bay Area.  He commented that at the farmers market, when he talked with people, he noticed that many of them didn’t know a lot about how vegetables grow out in the field.  Nowadays, Jose’s job includes things like loading trucks, cleaning CSA boxes, organizing things around the packing shed, checking that the porta-potties are in the right fields and staying clean, checking temperatures in the coolers – things like that.

Jose and his family like to eat almost all of the vegetables that are grown at Full Belly.  A lot of the same vegetables were grown on the farms in Sinaloa – lettuce, chiles, tomatoes, corn and beans.  When asked what his favorite vegetables are, Jose produces a long list for each season – pretty much, his family likes them all!