Teens turn to farm labor

July 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Valley farms offer no escape from the intense heat.

But a tight job market led a group of teenagers to give farm work a try and now they have learned some valuable lessons.

Fresno county farmer David Sarabian challenged his son's baseball teammates at Clovis East high school to come work on his farm. Many of them didn't last a single day but three years later some of them have kept their summer jobs.

Sarabian's son Jordan said, "They're going to remember this job for the rest of their lives."

Moving watermelon from the field to the bin requires good hand-eye coordination. Despite a high jobless rate, harvesting produce in the hot sun isn't something many Americans choose to do.

Jordan Sarabian explained, "In the ag industry we're looking for labor but it's not easy work. If people want to do the work it's there but you're going to have to get dirty and sweat a little bit."

Not a problem for these guys. Crew leader Joshua Cantrell runs a tight ship. Cantrell has developed a deep appreciation for migrant workers who serve as the backbone of the ag industry. He said, "I have a lot of respect for everybody who works in agriculture. I used to think, oh, it was just a minimum wage job but everybody works hard for their money and you have to earn their respect by just coming and working as hard as you can."

But this is not the summer gig Patrick Smith was seeking. Smith said, "You know retail, nice air conditioning environment but couldn't find a job."

On the farm he can hang out with his buddies and get some exercise. Their baseball skills actually come in handy. Sarabian said, "It definitely helps, gonna help infielders taking a groundball. Make sure you watch it all the way in."

Picking and packing watermelon has taught Patrick a valuable life lesson. "Now that it's my money I don't spend it all over the place like it was my parent's money. I wasn't very frugal with it."

By the time the season ends these guys will have picked about 7,000 bins of watermelon.

It's all about saving for college. Patrick Smith will major in psychology to become a counselor while Joshua Cantrell plans to become an attorney.


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