MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE/KSEE): High temperatures are expected throughout the Central Valley this week and farmers are making sure their workers are taking precautions during harvest season, the most crucial time of year.
Precautions like having lots of water handy, and mobile break rooms. Farmers say they’re ready for the heat.
Amid the scorching heat, it’s harvest week at Del Bosque Farms in Merced County. Farm workers were picking ripe cantaloupes that are ready to hit store shelves.
“When it’s really hot, the fruit actually matured faster,” said Joe Del Bosque, “we’d like to take a week off but we can’t because the fruit is gonna come faster than normal with the heat.”
As the owner of Del Bosque Farms, Del Bosque is making sure the heat doesn’t get to his employees.
“It’s important that they dress properly for this work. We encourage them to wear long sleeves to protect their skin, the hat to protect themselves from the sun,” he said while tugging on his long sleeve and hat. Gallons of water, shade, and wearing bright-colored clothing is key when working in the fields. Steps that Del Bosque takes himself after decades of working in his own fields.
“It’s important to keep these people safe because they can’t take a day off, the fruit doesn’t take a day off, and so yeah fruits gotta be picked and they’re happy to do it, and we just have to make sure that they’re safe,” he said.
While he and his wife keep a watchful eye on their workers, he’s also keeping an eye on the produce. However, Del Bosque has more to worry about than the harvest.
“My wife is out here watching the temperatures and if she sees that it gets too hot, she’ll call what we call ‘Plan B’, and ‘Plan B’ means hourly rest periods. Sometimes if it gets really really hot, we seldom do it, but sometimes we’ll get ‘Plan C’ which means, it’s too hot, everybody goes home, and we have done that before,” Del Bosque concluded.
There are supervisors for each crew of farm workers that have been trained in heat prevention illnesses and how to spot them, they keep a watchful eye on the crews. Supervisors advise farm workers to drink water every 20 minutes.