Jul 8, 2014

Most of California's Strawberry Farmers are Latino

California Strawberry Farmers Grow the American Dream While They Nourish the Nation

TURLOCK, CA -- California strawberries are not only one of America’s healthiest and most popular fruits, but they have provided a path to the American Dream for generations of immigrants, according to a new report issued today by the California Strawberry Commission.

The report – “Growing the American Dream: California Strawberry Farming’s RichHistory of Immigrants & Opportunity” – documents the rich history illustrating the role strawberry farming plays in providing opportunity for countless immigrants.

“Perhaps more than any other crop, strawberries are defined by decades of immigrants from Europe, Asia and Mexico. Not only do they work in the fields as harvesters, but they benefit from the unique attributes of strawberry farming that create numerous opportunities for upward mobility, including farm ownership,” according to the report.

Victor Ramirez, a third-generation strawberry farmer and the commission’s chairman, said the July Fourth release is for a very good reason.

“Independence Day is a great time to celebrate strawberries as an all-American fruit, including the opportunity to better our lives,” he said. “California strawberry farmers embody the pursuit of the American Dream by growing a crop that lends itself to achieving that goal. Their success plays out in their ability to grow 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries, supplying the nation with one of the most nutritious fruits in the market.”

A key theme in this new report focuses on how the crop has provided opportunity for immigrants dating back at least to the early 1900s, when immigrants from Europe and especially Japan began establishing themselves as skilled strawberry farmers. Today, an estimated 65 percent of all the state’s strawberry farmers are of Mexican-American descent, according to the report.  About 25 percent of these Latino strawberry farmers started out as field workers and worked their way up to become farm owners.

According to the report, this path to ownership is possible because of a number of unique characteristics inherent to strawberry farming which support an environment for small farmers to operate successful businesses. These factors include lower barriers to entry, the ability to harvest a high-yield crop nearly year round on a small amount of land, and heavy consumer demand.

“On this Fourth of July, we are proud to document the enormous role that this delicious and nutritious fruit has played for immigrants in pursuit of the American Dream,” said Ramirez.

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