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 also celebrates the great strides Hispanic professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners are making within their communities and the supply chain.
Golden Star Citrus, a Hispanic-owned and operated grower/packer/shipper in the Central Valley of California, was founded by David Chavez Sr. in 1985. They remain one of the few independent family-owned and operated citrus operations in the Central Valley.
Third-generation leader Michael J. Chavez shared, “You cannot talk about the produce industry without noting the critical contributions of Hispanics.” He added, “National Hispanic Heritage Month provides a spotlight to recognize our impact on the culture and society around us.”
Following his service during the Vietnam War, David Chavez, Sr. returned to the Central Valley to continue working for various produce packers. David watched, learned, and absorbed industry knowledge until he decided to take a leap of faith to grow, pack, and ship citrus, which was the creation of today’s Golden Star Citrus business. “Golden Star’s history in our community has spanned 36 years of employing local people and forging relationships that have lasted decades,” Michael added.
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Helena Beckett, Director of Sales at Giddings Berries USA, whose parent company, Giddings Fruit, is based in Latin America, shared, “We embrace this time to celebrate our diverse workforce in Chile, Peru, Mexico, and the United States. We honor the inherent connection between the Hispanic community and agricultural industry, which could not exist and thrive without them.”
Founded in 1993 by Julio Giddings, Giddings Fruit has been one of the main actors in Latin America in the berries and cherries industry. The vertically integrated supplier with an extensive breeding program and cultivation and packaging operations throughout North and South America opened its US sales office in Monterey, California, in 2019.
Beckett added, “Our US employee base is primarily of people of Hispanic descent. Many of our employees also come from multi-generational agricultural backgrounds. We quite literally would not exist without them. National Hispanic Heritage Month is a reflection of our entire workforce.”
Tami Martin, Director of Human Resources at Black Gold Farms, added, “National Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity for us and our employees to reflect on the enormous impact the Hispanic community has on the agriculture industry.” The fourth generation, family-owned farming organization was founded in North Dakota’s Red River Valley more than 80 years ago. Its mission states Black Gold Farms provides high-quality, high-value agricultural production and service through a network of skilled individuals who pursue positive, mutually profitable long-term relationships with suppliers and customers.
Martin continues, “Our employees of Hispanic descent are an integral part of our operation. We’re honored to have employed multiple generations of families within our operation. The fact that many children and grandchildren come to work for Black Gold Farms is a testament to these employees’ hard work and dedication.”
There is no denying that people of Hispanic descent have played an integral role in building the US fruit and vegetable supply chain into the industry it is today. With an eye on the next generation, Chavez observed, “For the past half-century, Hispanics mainly worked in the harvesting, packing, and processing of produce. Today, a growing community of college-educated Hispanic professionals is entering the industry and elevating to C-Suite executive roles. Golden Star Citrus is a prime example as a family-owned Hispanic grower/packer/shipper, and we strive to serve as motivation for others to go after their dream, regardless of ethnicity.”
“Several of Black Gold Farm’s Hispanic employees begin their businesses that support agricultural functions,” added Martin. “They become valuable partners in the produce industry and drive additional commerce in their communities and across the supply chain.”
“We honor the inherent connection between the Hispanic community and agricultural industry, which could not exist and thrive without them,” concluded Beckett. “For generations, the Hispanic community has provided the often undervalued but highly-skilled labor of planting, harvesting, packing, cooling, and shipping fresh fruits and vegetables for US consumers. Our entire country has this community to thank for an abundance of fresh, nutritious, and affordable food,” she said.
This National Hispanic Heritage Month, join Chavez, Beckett, and Marin in celebrating the people and professionals of Hispanic descent across the produce supply chain.