OUR ABUNDANCE COMES FROM THEM
Over a third of America’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The Golden State’s rich agriculture industry produced more than 400 commodities for nearly $50 billion in cash receipts in 2018, accounting for over 13% of the nation’s total agricultural value.
The Imperial Valley, despite its desert landscape, is one of California’s most bountiful growing regions, thanks to mild temperatures from October through April and irrigation supplied by the Colorado River. Imperial County’s gross agricultural production in 2018 was valued at over $2.2 billion. While the top commodity is cattle, Imperial County also produces significant yields of alfalfa, lettuce, broccoli, onions, spinach, carrots, celery and many other crops.
Edgar and Martin could be bused to any farm on any given day—as close as El Centro (15 minutes) or as far as Fresno (6-7 hours). Yuma, Arizona (1 hour), is a possibility as well. If they aren’t selected by a contractor—or if it rains too hard—they’re out of work for the day, uncompensated. During the summer, they return home to Mexico. The family time is much needed, but so is the money.
“When you come from Mexicali, this is your life,” Edgar says. “It’s either 200 [Mexican pesos] there or 80 [U.S. dollars] here. What you get paid in Mexico for one day, you get paid in California for one hour.”