A small group of chefs, food and lifestyle influencers had the opportunity to get to know California strawberry farmer Jose Luis Rocha Jr.
Rocha Jr. Berry Farms
Jose, a third generation strawberry farmer, welcomed more than a dozen folks to his ranch for a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into growing his sweet, juicy strawberries. The group also had a chance to meet and chat with Carlos Rocha, Jose’s cousin and co-owner of Rocha Jr. Berry Farms.
The Heart of a Strawberry Farmer
It’s hard to completely convey the love and passion Jose and his cousin Carlos have for the work they do – it’s something special that is felt as you watch their enthusiasm as they talk about their history, their crop, and the people who work for them.
Every Strawberry Hand-Picked
During the farm tour, the group was surprised to learn that every berry is hand-picked and also packed in the field by hard-working strawberry pickers. Jose and Carlos shared how important it is for them to treat the people who harvest their berries with respect.
Jose said, “My mother was a strawberry picker, so I treat our employees the way I’d want my mother to be treated if she were picking strawberries.”
While standing in the field, it’s amazing to watch how fast the workers pick and pack the berries. It’s quite a beautiful experience to be right there among the pickers as they seem to pass by you like a brush of the wind.
Advancement Opportunities for Strawberry Harvesters
Many of Jose’s and Carlos’ employees start off as pickers but then grow into positions such as truck drivers, supervisors, foreman – and even farm owners like Jose and Carlos. Because of those types of opportunities, individuals and families can pursue their goals toward education, family, career, home ownership and beyond. Jose said they have employees with parents, siblings and even children and grandchildren from the same family working for them.
Strawberries Fresh off the Plant
One of the best things about being on a strawberry ranch is enjoying the juicy berries right off the plant. They are so alluring with their vibrant, ruby color and the way they gently hang from the plant all plump with sweetness, just waiting to be picked. Did you know strawberries taste best right off the plant and warmed from the sun?
That’s why Jose, and hundreds of other California strawberry farmers like him, work so hard to make sure that the berries are immediately packed, cooled and then shipped (within hours!) to stores across the country – and the world!
While most consumers can’t enjoy strawberries right off the plant, they will still taste as wonderfully sweet by removing them from the refrigerator about an hour before enjoying. They taste better at room temperature.
Peak Season for California Strawberries
April through August is peak strawberry season in California, which is why these strawberries look so perfect. It’s easy to tell when strawberries are at they’re best: they are red all the way to the top of the berry and have fresh-looking, green stems (also know as the calyx). These are the qualities to look for when purchasing strawberries in the market. Visit our page on selecting and storing strawberries for more storage tips.
To learn more about Jose and other California strawberries, visit our Meet the Farmers page.