Strawberry fields have historically provided opportunities for field workers to advance to management positions and farm ownership, according to a new report, Cultivating Opportunity for California Strawberry Workers, released this week by the California Strawberry Commission.
According to the report, a robust education and training program supports opportunities for workers to move up in pay and responsibilities, with more than 25% of strawberry farmers getting their start working in the field. Further, strawberry farming has given Latinos more ownership opportunities than any other major crop, with Latinos making up two-thirds of the strawberry farmers in California. Virtually all of the thousands of mid-level management jobs are filled by field workers who were promoted to positions of responsibility.
Since many strawberry farmers started in the fields themselves, they recognize that hard work can help pave the path to the American Dream of a better life. According to Lorena Chavez, Chair of the California Strawberry Commission and a part of a multi-generation strawberry farming family, “This work has always been hard, and in the past 50 years, updates in labor regulations and farming practices ensure a safe and fair workplace. Strawberry farmers know that respect and opportunity result in success for everyone. More so than any other crop, California strawberry farming makes this dream a reality.”
The report further highlights the competitive wages in the state’s strawberry fields, with workers earning $12.56 per hour, on average, with opportunities to earn more than $30 per hour during peak harvest. These wages are better than comparable jobs on the Central Coast. California strawberry farms generate 55,000 on-farm jobs and 15,000 related jobs, serving as an important economic engine in the strawberry farming centers of the state.
Safety and education are primary concerns for field workers. California has the most comprehensive farm labor protections in the country: strawberry farmers comply with more than 70 laws and regulations to protect field workers, communities, and consumers. A wide array of leadership, management and safety workshops provide continuing education and skills development for crew supervisors and ranch managers. Topics include communications tools, employee morale, conflict resolution, on-farm safety, crew management, sexual harassment prevention, and heat illness prevention.