Paul Dawson has spent all of his life right here in Norman Park, Georgia. Not only was he born and raised here, but as a child he was also reared alongside many of the family and staff of Southern Valley. Paul says he was taught everything he knows about farming by Brian Key’s dad (Brian is our longtime Logistics Manager). He started working in the fields alongside Brian’s family when he was fourteen or fifteen and has worked in tobacco, greens, melons, butterbeans, squash, cabbage, and bell pepper. To put it mildly, he is no stranger to hard work or to farm life.
Paul, who describes himself as “an outside type guy,” has worked for Hamilton Growers/Southern Valley for five years now. After spending several years working an “inside” job, he was only too happy to walk into the Department of Labor and find out that Southern Valley was hiring. Once hired, Paul spent his first seven days training in the field as does everyone who is hired through the Department of Labor. From there, he spent a month driving a forklift before he was approached about being a field crew supervisor. Five years later and he’s been a faithful crew leader ever since.
Paul’s crew of twenty-six consists of both H2A employees and domestic workers, but he says “we are all one big happy family out there.” He also compliments his co-workers saying that everyone is “real good to help each other out with the language barrier” that naturally occurs between foreign and domestic workers. His crew is the only crew that picks hot pepper because of the special training it requires to recognize mature fruit. Picking the hot pepper while working alongside Mrs. Wanda’s husband, Ed, is one of Paul’s favorite jobs each season. They get in there and get after it and it’s always fun, he says.
Despite the heat and gnats that inevitably descend somewhere around June, when Paul talks about his job he says, “I love it. I really do.” “We joke around. We race. We have fun.” The hours are long and the heat can be stifling and “you can’t just drag around and get paid.” But, Paul says, “I like how everybody treats each other and I really enjoy my work.”
Paul, we are grateful for the five years of hard work and hot days you have put in with the Hamilton Growers/Southern Valley family! Here’s to five more!