The American Dream is alive in the fields of California
Oftentimes, the American dream is realized in the fields of California, and today we are sharing the story of a particular field in Imperial Valley where the dream was realized for several men, who’ve been working side by side for decades.
In agriculture, you reap what you sow, and that mentality has paid off for Jim Watte, who came from a farming family, but decided to follow a different path as a young man. Young Watte got his start working in the stock room of a California grocery store. After a few years of working his way up to manager, he decided the corporate life was not for him, and returned to his roots in farming to start his own operation in Imperial Valley.
In farming, nothing is guaranteed, including your crop. Watte’s crop was wiped out by a hurricane, and a few years of bad yields. However, he didn’t give up, and today he farms 2,000 acres of alfalfa and Bermuda grass alongside his son Jay and two very loyal, longtime employees, Danielle Gonzalez and Sergio Mexia.
The irrigation specialist
Gonzalez has been working for Watte for five decades, managing the irrigation for Watte’s operation, and being an integral part of daily life on the ranch. When Watte had a son, Jay Watte, Danielle helped train him and became an uncle-like figure to Jay. “I learned everything I know about irrigation from Danielle, he taught me how to irrigate and that each field is different in terms of how much water it needs,” said Jay. Today, Gonzalez is mostly retired, but still jumps in to help the family when needed.
“Danielle is just a part of our family,” said Jay. “He has a 50-year history with our family and we’ve been there for each other through tough times and celebrations. My dad stayed by Danielle side and helped him with funeral arrangements when his wife passed, and Danielle was at my wedding. He’s much more than an employee, we consider him family.”
The farming expert
Sergio Mexia is another long-time employee of Watte and Watte. “Sergio arrived at our farm a year before I was born, so he’s been in my life since the day I was born,” said Jay. “As a kid, I was always on the ranch, and when I was younger he saved me from numerous mishaps, including nearly falling off a tractor.”
Mexia came from Mexico and knew very little English when he started farming at Watte and Watte at age 17. Through the years his responsibilities and role at Watte and Watte have grown, his expertise and dedication to farming is evident to the Watte family. “When I want to try something new on the farm, I always ask my dad what he thinks..and then I ask Sergio if it can be done,” said Jay.
Through his work with farming, Mexia was able to buy multiple homes, raise three daughters, who went on to graduate from college and make a comfortable life. “I think a lot of people don’t realize, that farm work allows many immigrants to our country the ability to obtain the American dream,” said Jay. “What other field can you go into that requires no experience and no language barrier, and the opportunity for upward mobility?” added Jay.
The Watte land, and the men who work the land has not only reaped an abundance of crops for customers over the years, it has allowed multiple families to live the American Dream. And much like many California farming stories, the legacy will continue with future generations. “I recently started my own family, and I expect my little girl will be out in the fields with me, helping me fix irrigation pipes and working with Sergio.”