Cooler nights and beautiful days, the weather that Yuma County is known for. I had the honor of participating in a Labor of Love crew presentation this week. Agricultural companies nominate their employees to be surprised with a mid-morning break that includes food, gift cards, prizes and goodie bags.

The Labor of Love team went to a cauliflower field being harvested by Tanimura and Antle Produce Company. T&A, as they are commonly known, has been growing and harvesting vegetables in Yuma County since 1984. The company is farming 14,000 acres in Yuma County this year, growing cauliflower, broccoli, romaine lettuce and head lettuce.

Unlike many companies, all of the people working in the fields are T&A employees as they grow, harvest and pack all of their vegetables.

Tuesday was the first harvest of the cauliflower in the field where the Labor of Love event took place. It is always a surprise to the workers when the crew is told to stop work and come to the edge of the field for the presentations.

Noe Rangel, the cauliflower supervisor, was chosen by T&A for special recognition for his dedication, leadership and performance as the supervisor of seven cauliflower harvest crews. Noe has worked for T&A for 33 years, working his way from the irrigation crew to the supervisory position he now holds.

Cauliflower, like many vegetable crops, does not all get to a harvestable size at the same time, so the crews have to take particular care to not damage plants that they will harvest at a later time.

The crews work as a team and T&A treats their workers as family. There is tremendous pride shown by the workers in their work, and as always, food safety is their goal.

There is no such thing as an unskilled worker in Yuma’s agricultural industry. From field preparation, planting, irrigating, fertilizing, spraying of agricultural chemicals to harvest, it is the people that make our agriculture successful.

Many tools are now available to farm better including use of satellite guidance of tractors, mechanized weed control, advanced irrigation systems, specialized planters and trans-planters for live seedlings and computers to keep track of everything going on, but it is the field worker who makes the decision which plant is to be harvested.

There is no machine that can tell if the shape, color, size and quality of the vegetable being harvested is what the buyer wants. Neither can a machine tell if bird droppings, animal footprints or droppings or other signs of contamination are on the field surface or furrow.

For years from sunup until after the sun has set, the farm workers have been there for us. For the growers. For the shippers. For the communities that welcome them each year. For anyone who wants to eat nutritious leafy greens year round.

Without our farm workers, where would we be?

Bobbi Stevenson-McDermott is a retired soil and water conservationist. She can be reached at rjsm09@msn.com.

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