Despite Economy, Americans Don’t Want Farm Work
It’s a question rekindled by the recession: Are immigrants taking jobs away from American citizens? In the heart of the nation’s biggest farming state, the answer is a resounding no.
Government data analyzed by The Associated Press show most Americans simply don’t apply to harvest fruits and vegetables. And the few Americans who do usually don’t stay in the fields.
“It’s just not something that most Americans are going to pack up their bags and move here to do,” said farmer Steve Fortin, who pays $10.25 an hour to foreign workers to trim strawberry plants at his nursery near the Nevada border.
The AP analysis showed that, from January to June, California farmers posted ads for 1,160 farmworker positions open to U.S. citizens and legal residents. But only 233 people in those categories applied after learning of the jobs through unemployment offices in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona.
Benjamin Reynosa, who was picking ruby-colored grapes in 90-degree heat last week near Fowler, just south of Fresno, said he often is the only legal U.S. resident on seasonal crews. He said most people hear about the jobs through word of mouth or signs tacked outside rural stores, not the electronic registry.
“I’ve been working in agriculture for 22 years, and I can tell you there are very few gringos out here,” said Reynosa, 49, of Orange Cove, about 30 miles east of Fresno. “If people know English, they go to work in packinghouses or sit in an office.”