Many students in rural communities across Kern County work in the fields as a way to help their families with expenses.
Working in the fields is not an easy job. Many agricultural workers are in the sun all day, on their knees, or standing up for long hours. That is the case for Gabriela Torres. Ever since she was a junior in high school, she has been working at Sunview Vineyards in Delano on weekends and during school vacations.
Torres grew up in Delano surrounded by the agriculture world. Her parents have been working at Sunview Vineyards ever since they moved to Delano, and her aunt and uncles have also been with the company for more than 20 years. She has seen how her family has grown within the company, as four of her uncles are now supervisors in that company.
“I started working at Sunview Vineyards my junior year of high school because I wanted to be able to pay for my own stuff,” said Torres. “I didn’t want to keep asking my parents to pay for my phone bill or to pay for stuff I needed for school, I wanted it to do it myself so that’s why I started working in high school.”
Once Torres graduated from high school, she had to make a decision: to say home and work or go off to college. Torres wanted to stay, but her mom wanted her to go to college instead of working.
“I wanted her to go to school,” said Elida Torres, Gabriela’s mother. “I kept telling her to go to college after high school and get her degree in what she wanted.”
After having a serious conversation with her mom, Elida agreed to let her work and helped her get a job with Sunview Vineyards.
When Gabriela first started working at Sunview Vineyards, she worked doing quality control. She made sure that the fruit was good and cut right to put into baskets to sell. Now she is an inventory clerk and is in charge of putting the fruit in the right location and directing the truck drivers to where they pick up the fruit.
“I kept working here because there are a lot of opportunities within this company,” said Gabriela. “I really enjoy agriculture and doing this work.”
When this pandemic started, Torres kept working and said she felt comfortable and safe because of all the cautionary measures that were being implemented.
“My supervisor started cleaning, disinfecting a lot, and we started having more safety meetings,” said Gabriela. “They started putting hand sanitizers at every corner, and they started doing COVID tests on us every week.”
Torres does not plan on working at Sunview Vineyards her whole life. She want to eventually attend college to become a social worker.
“I didn’t go to college right after high school because I didn’t know how to juggle both work and school,” said Gabriela. “I do want to go back to college and get my degree and become a social worker. I want to work with abused children and find them a better home.”