POLL: Would You Pick Strawberries?

Pajaro Valley farmers are in desperate need of help. Would you work in the fields?

Jennifer Squires' Patch story today detailed the trouble farmers are facing finding workers to pick crops.

The problem is so bad, Squires reports, that workers are clocking major overtime and fields full of ripe fruit and vegetables are being tilled under. Meanwhile, the area faces a 20 percent unemployment rate.

If you are or were unemployed, would you apply for these jobs? Why or why not?

Vote in our poll and explain your reasons in the comments.  

Watzon McWats September 12, 2012 at 10:49 PM
I would be hesitant to apply because of the assumption that I'd need to be able to speak Spanish and because the wages they pay would be less than my unemployment check (same with fast food, retail, etc.) However, if I was at rock bottom - sure, I'd take any paying job. Prior to WWII, Americans used to pick their own fields. Workers were sometimes rallied together by foremen and busses in from the big cities. It wasn't until the war that we experienced a labor shortage and welcomes the braceros, but unfortunately when the soldiers got back home, their jobs were gone for good. The braceros were willing to accept a lower wage and lived in impoverished shacks on the farms themselves. The former American pickers - now war beaten heroes, were used to a higher wage and standard of living. The problem isn't that Americans are too lazy, it's that the industry experienced a massive regime change in the 40's.
Cathy P. September 12, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Looks like 4 other people voted yes that they would take a job picking crops if unemployed. I'll add myself to that number as well. If I were out of work and couldn't get anything in my field, then absolutely I'd pick whatever I had to to put food on the table for my family. Although I'm sure I'd totally suck at it, I would do anything to keep from living on the street. I do think it's a shame that growers are tilling crops under and not opening their fields to gleaners or organizations that glean and distribute to the less fortunate. Guess they get their money either way...
Watzon McWats September 12, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Might sound silly, but are they doing anything to attract new talent? Craigslist, MontereyBayJobs, Monster, etc? Perhaps the issue is they're still catering to the same old waning workforce.
Rebecca Garcia September 12, 2012 at 10:59 PM
As a teen-ager I worked in the strawberries and clearly remember that during the picking either my knees hurt or my back hurt. I would imagine that there would be some serious physical consequences long term. I don't know the pay for picking strawberries, but I do know that some families who pick strawberries continue to live in garages or crowed homes with several families. I voted no.
Watzon McWats September 13, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Jennifer Squires commented on another article saying that farm laborers make $12 an hour. I supported myself and subsidized another person's income on $12 an hour not too many years ago. We didn't live in a garage or crowded home. We even ate out a couple times a week, had a (cheap) car, (basic) cell phones, and contributed to a retirement account. I think that's largely a cultural issue. People with no education go out and have a bunch of kids and oftentimes insist at having a stay at home mom and then are left with no other choice than to walk everywhere and live in someone's unconverted garage. A single person or dual income family can live on $12 an hour and avoid impoverished conditions. You're not gonna have an iPhone or go on weekend trips to Tahoe, but you'll get by. It's not a life I'd choose, but if I had no other choice I wouldn't scoff at it. Before living in Watsonville I lived in Santa Cruz. A town filled with young folks making $10/hr part time and still managing to live a decent life in an expensive coastal town. It's not how much moneys in the bag, it's how many holes are in the bottom. Not bashing your opinion, just commenting that living in garages or in generally undesirable conditions isn't a direct result of working on a farm or making low levels of income. They're still making a good deal above minimum wage.
gray September 13, 2012 at 04:47 AM
To every one that think that field workers get pay $12/hr. You gays need to go and apply work one week and then come back and write about your big check. Let me know if you can live with what you made. To jennifer you comets are out of contexts you have a bat idea about big families. I am glad that you can go on trips and have a good life. You should see how happy some of this big are, there not asking you for nothing.
randy September 13, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Good Morning. During the advent of the "welfare" in the 1960s, it seems that citizens decided it was much easier to go on welfare than work. Free commodities, free medical, money and even more money for each child born, even if it was a single mom. I think this made people weak. Gray... I disagree. Some of these people are asking for MORE that what I have and I have worked for many years. Social Security is now given to some non-citizens for a few years... but then they must become citizens or lose it. I live in the area where I drive by the fields every day. I know I could not do their job. But I couldn't do my SIL's job in construction either. Don't give me the difference in what my SIL makes and the workers. I am just stating there are many jobs I cannot do. Here in Watsonville, one requirement is you speak spanish. Do they require English NO. If you don't believe that .... go to KMart and see. I ask a sales associate for something and they didn't speak English. So knowing some in management, I asked. They said YES, they are required to hire even if they don't speak English. Another thing, I have a wonderful friend. She did housecleaning to help support her and her kids. Her husband had passed way at the age of 45. She went to the fields to help make ends meet. I really admire her. AND many others. Some work in the field and don't complain because they have a job. Randy, stating my opinion
Jennifer Olds September 13, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I have never understood why they don't use minimum security inmates to do this work. It would give them the opportunity to repay their debt to society, earn some money, and would help the farmers. It's not like there's a low supply of criminals!
Jennifer Olds September 13, 2012 at 03:11 PM
A few years ago, I remember reading an article about the people working in the meat (slaughterhouse) industry in the mid west. Same situation. They fought and managed to be making a decent wage with a decent standard of living, then the Mexican workers came in and said they'd do it for less money. Now the American workers are jobless. It's disgusting, really.
randy September 13, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Jennifer.. it is because that would be considered ABUSE to the prisoners. They have a coshy life
Kim September 13, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I voted NO, only because physically I know I couldn't do that job anymore. I did it for a few years in my teen years. Where we lived we were surrounded by berry fields. That is one of the hardest jobs in the fields.
Watzon McWats September 13, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Minimum security prisoners do work, but it's optional - thus not abuse. Golden Gate Park comes to mind - minimum security prisoners drive the lawn mowers, rake the leafs , etc.
David H. Perez September 13, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I voted yes because I would do whatever I have to do to keep my house and put food on the table. As a 57 year old man, sure, my back and joints get sore sometimes, but I have to keep going, even if that means having to pick strawberries to survive. Heck, I just refinished the hardwood floors in my house myself and survived. As a retired public employee, I do not have the funds to hire out that kind of work. But if something major goes out on the house, you will likely see me in the fields.
Monica September 14, 2012 at 01:17 AM
You can get a good pay check working in the fields. Several of my friends did it. Its an honest paying job. Something hard working people can do . Not everyone gets paid the same if your a quick learner & good at picking then you will get a good paycheck.


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