Brenda Palomares has been working at Southern Valley almost as long as it has been in existence. She references her time here with statements such as, “I came about 3 months after *Kirk passed” and “*Pam was pregnant with *Courtney when I first met her.” Those statements point not only to the length of her tenure here, but also to the closeness with which she has worked with the Hamilton family over the years.
Brenda began her time at Southern Valley in 1988 when she first worked here for one season. She then came on full time in 1989 and spent her first six years here in the fields helping with the planting and picking. In those very early days, everything was grown on bare ground and the main commodities grown were squash, eggs, cucumbers, and pepper. Many things were packed in the field in the beginning and she chuckles as she says they used to wash the pepper by hand in tubs. Quite a difference from the highly automated, covered, well-lit, pepper-packing line we use today.
As the farming operation grew, Brenda changed positions and began working on the packing line in the packing house – just like the ladies she supervises today. She says “one day they asked me to supervise. I didn’t really want to do it, but I did and I’ve done it ever since.” Brenda is currently in her 28th year at Southern Valley with more than 20 of those years spent as our Packing House Supervisor. Despite the number of years spent in a lead role at Southern Valley, she openly confesses, (while laughing) “this was never supposed to be my job. I never thought I would spend my whole life working in produce.”
But she has. One reason is because while the job is very hard, she loves the fact that it’s not boring or sedentary. “It’s a lifestyle,” she admits passionately. In her position, the work also has the beauty of being seasonal, giving Brenda time off during the winter when we are growing and packing out of Yucatan. The thrill and rush of her job also play a big factor into why she says she thrives in it. “I like to prove people wrong,” she says. “When they tell me it can’t be done, I like to prove that it can.” That applies in situations such as packing on three different lines at one time, packing a certain quantity of product, or finding new and better ways to do things.
Whenever and wherever the packing line is running – be it cucumbers, pickles, peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, or eggplant – you can be sure that Brenda will be there giving instructions, helping sort product, training new workers, and pushing for the line to keep moving and all product to get packed. “After you work in a job like this,” she says, “you appreciate everything.” “People have no idea what it takes to get them fresh produce. It’s such hard work and it makes you appreciate it all.”
*Kirk and his brother Kent started the farm together in 1987. Kirk was killed shortly thereafter in a farming accident.
*Pam is Kent’s wife.
*Courtney is Kent’s daughter and currently in an Administrative role at Southern Valley.