I was part of a Japanese American “truck farming” family in the mid to late 1950s. In Orange County California, my father grew vegetables of all types and was an exceptional, sensitive “Patron” (boss) to the Latino workers that worked for us. There would be a mix of local workers and Braceros from Mexico from the “Bracero” program. Every year in the Spring on “hiring day”, my father known as “Jorge” to the workers, would survey the workers and every year he would select Juanito who had worked for us for many years. Juanito was now hunched over from years of working the fields and he could not move very well… and he was well into his 70s. My father always felt loyalty was a higher standard than how fast a worker could pick vegetables. The other workers soon understood what my father stood for and they would help pick vegetables in Juanito’s row and take his filled box to the end of the row. If thinning plants or weeding, workers would jump into Juanito’s row ahead to make sure Juanito could keep up with the crew. It was noticible that the other workers worked faster just to help Juanito and always made sure that Juanito’s dignity was intact. On very hot days I would be instructed to get cases of bottled sodas as a treat for the workers. Once there was a lady recommended by a fast string bean picker and my dad agreed to hire the lady before meeting the lady. When he met the lady he was surprised as she had a deformed hand but he kept his promise and that lady became one of the fastest worker we had. Well before equal rights and government regulations… my father just knew that one must show that they really care for workers from their heart first and eveything else just falls into place. In later years I finally understood why the workers were so sadden at the end of the farming season or their tenure with us as farm workers… as they would say to my father …”Yo quiro volver”.
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