Israel first came to Pearson Farm as a 16 year old boy. He walked into Mr. Al's office with his father and uncle after a devastating frost destroyed the citrus crop in Florida. They were in need of work and hoped that Mr. Al could use them in his peach orchards. Israel served as interpreter for these men as they put together a deal for working Pearson Farm's peach crop. Even at the tender age of 16, Israel was well versed in the agricultural world. His family had been living the migrant life for many years traveling up and down the east coast following crops like citrus, blueberries and apples.
Israel came to Pearson Farm and worked with his father those first few peach seasons but he wanted to attend college. He spent a couple of years in Florida working at “The Happiest Place on Earth” while attending college classes. In the summer of 1988, he decided to come back to Pearson Farm with his family and brought his beautiful wife, Chayo, a couple years later. In the mid 90's, when Pearson Farm began participating in the H2A Program, Israel became our Coordinator. He is responsible for all the young men who come to Pearson Farm under our contract each Peach Season.
We rode out to a couple orchards today to check on a few crews and give updated sizing directions for picking. On these bumpy dirt roads headed to the orchard, Israel told me stories of his first taste of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wonder Bread, attending school in Florida, Michigan and Mexico and of traveling miles in the back of his father's truck with his brothers and sisters. These memories flowed like they happened yesterday instead of many years ago. It was such a fun ride but it was when we arrived in the field that I saw the real story unfold………
We pulled into an orchard with a group that had just finished lunch. Heads turned, young men stood, eyes were fixed on Israel's truck, and when he got out and made his way over to the trees, these young men started running to get to him. They knew he had something important to say. They gathered so closely around him that my photo op was ruined . They needed to be as close to him as they could get…..No one wanted to miss a word or direction from him.
Soccer is Mexico's most popular sport and is enjoyed by young and old alike. Israel was a soccer player in his younger years and I hear he was pretty good at it. So it wasn't surprising that he told me that he uses soccer terms and analogies to welcome and train his crews that come to Pearson Farm each peach season. Just like all great coaches, Israel knows how to recruit, teach, motivate and mentor his “players”.Israel is responsible for these young men 24-7 from the time they arrive at Pearson Farm in January until they leave in August. He is officially their boss but what I saw was a “Coach.”
Like a soccer coach recruits his players, Israel hand picks the “Players for his Team.” They are chosen for their experience, skill, strength, and ability to work well with team mates. Once they arrive here, he chooses his “Team Captains”. These gentlemen are his eyes and ears. They are chosen because of their ability to lead and work experience. Israel teaches his “players” the “Game Plan” by showing them how to prune the peach trees so they will grow strong and healthy, to thin out the peaches so that only the best are left to mature and then how to use just the right amount of pressure to pick the ripened peaches off the limbs. He shows them how to determine which peaches are the perfect size for picking and how full their buckets need to be before being dumped in the bins. He even refers to the bins as “Goals” for his team. He keeps his players “Motivated” by providing for their daily needs. He makes sure their housing, transportation and medical needs are taken care of. Israel knows that every team is only as strong as its weakest link so he keeps a careful eye on his players personally too. If one of his players seems quiet, sad, and maybe hanging back from the group, he will spend a little extra time with them or maybe suggest a quick trip back to Mexico to visit their family. Israel is such a wonderful “Mentor” for his team because he understands them. He knows where they come from, he knows what they are working for, he knows what it's like to be lonely and missing your family because he was once a “Player” too. He is able to express to the “Team Owners” the needs of his players. Pride exudes from him as he shows me the trees his team pruned, talks about how many peaches the trees are producing, and how many bins his teams are picking because he understands that it takes a whole team effort to win the “Game”. He is their biggest fan and Israel, Pearson Farm is so very proud to have a “Coach” like you!