National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated each year from mid-September to mid-October, is an opportunity for the fresh produce industry to reflect on the history of people of Hispanic descent and their contributions to the overall production of fruits and vegetables.
The month-long event is also a time to celebrate the great strides Hispanic professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners are making within their communities and across the supply chain.
Eloy Garza, founder of Garza Labor, a labor contractor based in Grand Rapids, MI, grew up in the labor community of south Florida, where more than 70% of the population is of Hispanic descent.
A third-generation specialty crop harvester, Eloy’s years of developing friendships and observing labor practices led him to create Garza & Sons Labor Contractors, LLC in 2014.
Nearly a decade later, Garza & Sons, now Garza Labor, is a family business success story told season by season through the retention of their employees and customers, all of whom trust Eloy to do what is best for them, their families, and their businesses.
“National Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity for us to celebrate our employees and the hard-working communities across the nation who have built their livelihoods supporting the specialty crop industry through dedicated, hard work,” said Garza. “You cannot talk about the produce industry without noting their contributions.”
The nationwide labor contractor employs thousands of domestic, H-2A, and H-2B labor people, providing full-service labor contracting services to industries such as agriculture, hospitality, mass market production, and more.
Offering unrivaled employment benefits, Garza Labor has the highest industry retention rates for employees and customers alike.
Eduardo Mestre, Chief Operating Officer of Ark Foods, the modern-day farming company on a mission to showcase the magic of vegetables, traces his roots back to Cuba, from where his father’s family fled in the middle of the night during the communist uprising.
A New Yorker himself, Mestre grew up on a steady diet of Cuban black beans and rice, growing slowly and steadily in love with vegetables and the produce industry.
Leading the company’s day-to-day operations, which include order fulfillment, production planning, finance, and HR, Mestre understands the value of the Hispanic community and their contributions to specialty crop agriculture.
“We embrace Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate our diverse workforce in all aspects of our operation, honoring the inherent connection between the Hispanic community and the agricultural industry,” said Mestre.
He added, “Many of our employees come from multi-generational agricultural backgrounds up and down the Atlantic Coast. National Hispanic Heritage Month is a reflection of our entire workforce.”
Serafin Ruiz, the Director of Harvesting at Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville, CA, shared, “I learned the art and discipline of farming and harvesting from the time I was young and worked in the fields on harvest crews. Doing this highly collaborative, labor-intensive work gave me great pride and made me passionate about agriculture. It taught me how to be a leader.”
Continuing, “At Ocean Mist Farms, our Hispanic team members and field crews are integral and vital to our entire operation. Their harvesting expertise, hard work, and loyalty contribute to the success of our company in immeasurable ways every day.”
Expanding on the roots of Hispanic heritage at Ocean Mist Farms, Gladys Valenzuela-Corzo, the VP of Human Resources, added, “The vast majority of our employee base is of Hispanic descent. We have a great mix of ethnically diverse employees, from the corporate office to our coolers, field crews, farming and harvesting teams. All of whom contribute greatly to our growth and our success.”
“Our Hispanic team members are intrinsically tied to agriculture and farming the land in a way that showcases their passion, hard work, and tangible achievements,” said Valenzuela-Corzo. “Many field crew team members have grown up in agriculture communities and homes and understand the many facets of this hard work.”
“They are essential to our organization’s success – and more broadly to the communities that they live and work in – and deserve our recognition and appreciation for the important jobs they do day in and day out.”
This National Hispanic Heritage Month, join Garza, Mestre, Ruiz, and Valenzuela-Corzo in celebrating the people and professionals of Hispanic descent across the produce supply chain.