As we shared last week, this fall WAEF had the unique opportunity to share stories of two of the families involved with the foundation with the Central Washington State Fair on their display titled a "Salute to Farm Workers". Both of these families are now multi-generational in the tree fruit industry and built their family legacies through commitment, faith and hard work.
The Central Washington State Fair (Yakima) is entering its second week. The Salute to Farm Workers display is located in the Ag Building.
Last week we shared about the Martin Family. This week we get to share the story of the Benitez Family.
Feliciano "Chano" Benitez was born December 6th, 1958 in Cerro de Ortega, Colima, Mexico. He migrated to the United States as a young man and began a long career in the tree fruit industry that began in the 1970s and continued until the time that he lost his battle with cancer in 2017.
At the time of his death, Chano was a highly respected ranch manager for Gilbert Orchards. The Gilbert family established a scholarship through the Washington Apple Education Foundation in honor of their friend and member of the Gilbert Orchards family.
Chano and his wife, Antonia, proudly raised four children, Alejandro, Cristal, Hector and Alejandro, in their home in Wapato where they stressed the importance of education and hard work. His son Hector shared that his father was always willing to put it all on the line for his kids; there was never a cost too high. His favorite advice to share was "Never Give Up" and "Work hard to be someone in your world."
Chano's career with Gilbert Orchards meant a great deal to him and his family. Antonia, and their sons Alejandro, Hector and Alejandro, all work for Gilbert Orchards. Hector shared that he believed his father's work as a supervisor in the industry meant the most to him because it allowed him to help people and develop their potential. He devoted his life to growing trees and farming and had a true gift for his vocation. Chano attended university in Mexico studying horticulture and received his GED in the United States.
Additionally, Chano was a beloved member of the Gilbert Orchards family. He was known for his positive attitude and his interest in bringing others up through the ranks. In addition to the vast and varied duties involved in managing an orchard, he was called upon to help with special projects, such as sharing with US Senator Patty Murray about horticulture.
Though family and career were important to Chano, so was faith and community. He took great strides to make a difference to those living in his home community of Wapato and his birth home in Mexico.
Chano and Antonia visited prisons and shared scripture with inmates locally and in Mexico. He was musical, sharing this gift in the church choir and in prisons. He participated in Wapato's annual reenactment of Christ's crucifixion supporting the effort through his time and financial resources.
Chano was a resource to family and friends arriving from Mexico, especially during the 1980s, providing places to live and leads for employment. In addition to his work at Gilbert Orchards, Chano and his family owned and maintained several rentals in the Yakima valley.
Chano was an avid soccer fan remaining loyal to his Mexican roots whenever the Mexico national team played.
Chano's legacy lives on through his family, the leadership he demonstrated in his ag career and the lives he touched in his hometown of Wapato, his birth community in Mexico and throughout the Yakima valley.