Labor Contractor Fresh Harvest Deep in Vegetable Harvests

Fresh Harvest Relies on H-2A

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Steve Scaroni, along with his wife Brenda, owns Fresh Harvest, a premier labor provider, staffing and harvesting company for the agricultural industry in the western United States.

Steve Scaroni, with Fresh Harvest.

“Expansion for Fresh Harvest is coming, but the main emphasis is crops related to salads. They even expanded into citrus last year,” Scaroni said.

Fresh Harvest has also expanded into pears. Vegetables are the heart and soul of Fresh Harvest.

“Anything that goes into a salad, a lot of lettuce, romaine, broccoli; we touch a lot of salads every day,” he said.

The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers who expect a shortage in domestic workers to bring non-migrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural services for a temporary or seasonal nature.

“If it wasn’t for H-2A, I wouldn’t be in business,” Scaroni said.

Scaroni explained that the H-2A gets legal workers to serve his customers demands for the services he offers. A majority of the demands are labor and harvesting, along with other farm services.

“We’re bringing up 100 irrigators this year to put throughout the Salinas Valley because our Salinas customers can’t get enough irrigators,” he said.

Laborers that show great work ethic will be able to work for a longer period of time. A worker could technically stay if moved from contract to contract.

“If the timing works, he gets up to three years, but then he has to go back for 90 days,” Scaroni said.

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By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

H2-A employees are the heart of one major farm labor company. Steve Scaroni owns Fresh Harvest, a premier labor provider and staffing and harvesting company to the agricultural industry and the western United States. But the company’s main emphasis has always harvested crops related to salads; they have also expanded into permanent crops.

“Last year, we started citrus and pears, and we will continue to expand in vegetables with anything that goes into a salad, lots of head lettuce, romaine, and broccoli, which is what we have been doing for a long time,” Scaroni said.

And then we touch a lot of salads every day. The H2-A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers when anticipating a shortage in domestic workers to bring non-migrant foreign workers to the US to perform agricultural services for a temporary or seasonal nature.

Steve Scaroni

“If it wasn’t for H2-A, I wouldn’t be in business. I mean that’s the only way to get a legal worker into California to serve my customers demands for the services we offer, which is mostly labor and harvesting,” Scaroni said.

“And we’re even starting to do a lot of farm services. We’re bringing up 100 irrigators this year to put throughout the Salinas Valley because our Salinas customers can’t get enough irrigators,” he said.

Being a labor contractor has its difficulties. It takes a lot of work. It’s a very bureaucratic process-driven application process.

“Laborers that show great work ethic will be able to work for a longer period of time. A worker could technically stay if I can move it from contract to contract, and I can keep the temporary employee for three years,” Scaroni said. “But then he has to go back for 90 days, but it’s very hard to time the contracts for that to work.”

“So most guys, they’ll do five, six, seven months. They’ll go home before they can come back. And then the guys that are really good workers with and a great attitude and really get it done for us. We’ll move to another contract. Will even retrain them in a different crop if they have the right attitude and work ethic,” he said.

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Fresh Harvesting and Packing Co Relies on H-2A Workers

Steve Scaroni is a owner of Valley Harvesting and Packing, a major harvester of strawberries and leafy green vegetables in California and Arizona. At a recent romaine lettuce harvest operation in Salinas, Scaroni talked about how much labor and equipment his production utilizes.

Scaroni said much of his labor comes from Mexico, as part of the federal H-program, which allows temporary visas for agricultural labor workers.

“The H-2A is so important. We absolutely could not produce at the levels of volume that we do without H-2A labor. There is not enough legal labor for us to do the amount of volume that we are asked to do by our customers.”

Scaroni explains that having the H-2A visa program is essential to his produce production and harvesting, even for company that is not seen by the consumer.

“Between the different brands that we probably serve, we probably touch 20 percent of every salad eaten in america everyday. But you don’t see our name anywhere, you don’t hear about us, we are a vendor behind the scenes for the major brands,” said Scaroni.

With the demand and need for guaranteed freshness in produce, a constant flow of workers is even more crucial to the harvesting and production process.

“But we are the ones putting up the harvester equipment and we are making sure we have enough labor. The whole process is now “just in time”. See that’s the other thing, now we have freshness, food safety, but you know we have to have a consistent workforce because we are on just in time deliveries because that’s what the grocery store requires. It comes all the way come back to us.”

Scaroni explains the process by which his company obtains out of state workers, legally and those with good work ethic.

“We’re fortunate that we have what have a farming operation in Mexico, so we vet a lot of our workers that we bring up here. we vet them first in our operation in Guanajuato Mexico. And then the good ones we give them the opportunity to come up here to work two to three to four to five to six  months, making more in an hour than they can make in a day in Mexico.” said Scaroni.

Scaroni noted that there must be approvals from five different government agencies to get that worker out of Mexico and here working in California, legally with a H-2A visa.

“I have a great H-2A team, all they focus on is H-2A, the process, getting the workers up here, going to the consulate to do the intake process. Every worker is background checked, fingerprinted, and if they have any criminal history in the system, they’re excluded and cut off the border, and they can’t come.”

Scaroni said the job wouldn’t get done without them.

“In today’s labor reality I would not have a business at the volume that my customers bless us with. We would be at half of what we are, We’d be half the business we are now.” Scaroni added.

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