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Those who work the Yakima Valley fields during harvest and year-round are essential to creating the hoppy beers everyone loves. Sesiones del Migrante Mango IPA was created to recognize these workers. A portion of proceeds from the beer will benefit La Casa Hogar, whose mission is to connect and educate Latina families, to transform lives and the Yakima Valley.
La Casa Hogar staff sat down with Roberto Polina Sr. to learn more about his experiences as a Latino community member working in agriculture in the Yakima Valley.
Tell us about your family.
I was born and raised in Texas with my six brothers and six sisters. My dad, who was born in Mexico, was the main provider for family. He would go out shrimping on big boats for 3-4 weeks at a time. After a while, our Uncle was working in Washington and encouraged us to come here in 1969. Our family worked in apples, hops, asparagus, grapes and mint. I’ve been working in hops for 38 years. I’ve got a beautiful wife – we’ve been together 39 years and we have three grown sons- Robert, Ruben and Rudy.
It sounds like you feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. What are some of the aspects of your work that you are most proud of?
I started off holding a shovel in my hand. I never thought I would get to where I am now. I always thought I’d just hoe weeds. But one day, I saw people driving tractors. So I learned to jump on a tractor and do pretty much anything.
Then the manager who supervised the farm asked me to be his lead hand to get the hops going, picked processed. I was undecided. But I think that [taking the job] was the best thing I did. I was overseeing up to 70 people, day and night, I’d always have my phone on. I take a lot of pride in being a manager.
Roy Farms got into the blueberry businesses and I became a supervisor there. That was a big responsibility. I learned even more then. We had to enter a lot of data and I didn’t know a lot about computers. It was a challenge, but I liked it.
Tell us how the agriculture industry has changed over the years.
When I first started working at Roy Farms there were no regulations for how to take care of people. If you had to go to the bathroom, you used outhouses, to eat you weren’t able to wash your hands. Now they have portables set up, soap, wash, pump toilets, posted signs with rights and responsibilities. I think the regulations are really good for anyone who works in the industry - you can see a big difference. I think people feel more respected. Roy Farms is a great company to work for. They do a lot for their people.
What is something you wish more people knew?
I wish everyone knew that ag work is not a job for everybody. It takes a lot of responsibility, hard work, time away from your family, sacrifices.
But anything is possible. It doesn’t matter if you were born white, black, Mexican. It doesn’t matter. I started with a shovel in my hand. I’ve come a long way. I’m proud of what I’ve done with my life. My kids took their work ethic from their dad. They are good hard workers. It’s in the blood.
Interview by Laura Armstrong
Edited by Jessica Moskwa Hawkins
Posted July 17, 2018