CALEXICO – While everyone was sleeping in the wee hours of Friday morning, dozens of State Employment Development Department (EDD) employees along with numerous volunteers put on their aprons and served breakfast to thousands of field workers during the 37th annual Farm Workers Appreciation Breakfast of Imperial County.
“It is an honor to be here with this token of appreciation to our farmworkers who daily work hard for our community,” said Luis Castro, mayor of Calexico. “Mexicans are the ones who have raised the crops in the Imperial Valley and we need to respect these individuals. We must support the people that wake up early and strive every day to work hard. The least we can do for these people is to offer them a breakfast once a year.”
Castro recalled being 12 years old when his parents owned Castro’s Coffee shop back in 1971 and serving the farm workers coffee in the early hours.
“I pretty much grew up with these people,” said Castro. “I am proud to see that many of our older farm workers put their kids through college who now are professionals, which shows us the efforts of the parents reflects on their children.”
On Friday, the field workers were welcomed with over 3,000 tamales along with beans, cupcakes, milk, orange juice and coffee at the One Stop Career Center parking lot.
“This is my first opportunity to come down and join this event, and oh my goodness, you have a lot to be proud of, this is so exciting,” said Sharon Hilliard, chief deputy director of the Employment Development Department. “I want to thank everyone who contributed and made this possible. Like everything great, it takes a village, and this is a great example of it.”
Most of the farm workers live in Mexicali and cross daily in an effort to achieve a better way of living. Most laborers leave their homes just after midnight and return to their homes after dark.
“This is the only job I know, and have known since I was very young,” said Francisco Alarcon, a Mexicali resident and farm worker. “Even though I am away from my family most of the time, this job provides food and a roof over the heads of my wife and children and that is all that matters to me.”
Musicians Tony Obezo and Frank Paleo set the mood with their live music for those who opted to dance to keep warm, while others gathered around the heaters and shared anecdotes of their farm working experiences.
County and city officials also participated in the event, including Calexico Mayor Luis Castro, Sheriff Raymond Loera and Undersheriff Fred Miramontes, as well as members of the Mexican Consulate in Calexico.
Initiated by Loli Mercado, the Farmworkers Breakfast began in 1979 in El Hoyo on 2nd Street, where farm workers were served sweet bread and coffee. The breakfast has slowly evolved into a significant event with full meals.
“We went from serving sweet bread and coffee, to tamales, beans and all of the other goodies and I’m sure it will keep growing,” said Mercado. “I want to thank all of our sponsors and volunteers who make this possible year after year.”
The event was hosted by the California EDD, the City of Calexico, the Farm Worker Services Coalition of Imperial County, the Center for Employment Center Training, the Calexico Chamber of Commerce and the Mexican Consulate in Calexico.
Sponsors included Baja Runners, Del Taco, El Don FLC #1, Rabobank, Mike Abatti Farms, Imperial Valley Foodbank, Heartland Farms, Vessey and Company, Supervisor D-1 John Renison, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, the Mexican Consulate in Calexico, JC Dominguez Inc., Migrant Head Start, Alford Distributing, Planned Parenthood, SFC, and Smith-Kandal Insurance.