Off to the right of the packing house, stands what appears to be a wise gray-haired man bent over a piece of metal welding almost every time I enter. If he sees me when I walk in, without fail he straightens up, grins a toothy grin and greets me with a “Buenos Dias.”
Jose “Javier” Campos calls me a child – which I am to him – as he talks about the 20 years he has worked for Southern Valley/Hamilton Growers. July 26th, 1996 is when I started working here he tells me in broken English. He goes on to say that he spent the first three months in the field, but once they found out he could weld, he was quickly moved to the shop. It is there that his specialized skills were put to good use. He reveals that he has been welding for 52 years and is only now arriving at the ripe age of 65. He then goes on to recount stories of how he was welding in Mexico before they even had acetylene in tanks. Back then, they used calcium carbide and added moisture to it to create gas. Needless to say, I didn’t understand the science behind it all, but what I did get is that he’s been welding a long time and in a variety of ways!
During his time at Southern Valley, Jose’s work has had a major impact on each of our farms. He’s built 5 different machine sprayers that pull behind tractors, as well as an entire cucumber line that was then sent to the farm in Yucatan. His hours are long and the work is often requested to be done on a tight schedule, but he seems to like it. When I ask him what he likes most about his work, his enthusiastic response in Spanish is “todo me gusta” or “I like it all!” He says he loves to do repair work and enjoys the good friends he works with. “Me… I like working,” he says and grins.
Jose goes on to talk about how Kent, Jon, and Austin are good people. They are good to him and he is good to them, he says. “They take care of me.” He pauses and reflects back on seeing Austin when he was just 4 out in the fields picking up plastic and his brother Presley following in his footsteps years later. “For me, beautiful peoples.”
Over the years, everyone in his family except his daughter has worked here at some point. All three of his sons, as well as his son-in-law, have been employed at the farm here or in Yucatan and his wife even spent two years working here. For now, it is just him though and he enjoys going back home to his wife in Queretaro, Mexico for the offseason as well as getting to play with his 6 grandchildren that live nearby.
We cannot express how grateful we are to Jose for the 20 years he has worked here and could only hope that he works 20 more!