In Calif., more Latinos among strawberry growers
Alejandro Ramirez was 15 when he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to work alongside his father and brother in California’s strawberry fields.
He spent 12 years toiling for a large grower, living with his wife and child in a garage, learning everything from pulling weeds to planting to driving a tractor. Now, Ramirez is a U.S. citizen who employs about 80 workers – all of them fellow Latinos – and grows his own strawberries on more than 100 acres in Salinas, one of California’s key berry growing regions.
“This is my pride,” Ramirez said on a recent afternoon, gazing over the rolling fields filled with neat rows of plants. “Twenty years ago, I had nothing. The strawberry is my life.”
And not just his. Strawberries have given Latinos more ownership opportunities than any other major crop. Latinos now comprise two-thirds of strawberry growers in California, where 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries are grown. Most growers of other major crops are white.
For the $2.3 billion strawberry industry, it’s the second time a minority group has emerged from the fields in such a profound way. Japanese immigrants took over the industry as they grew in numbers after the turn of the 20th century.
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