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 opens tomorrow, Friday, September 21st and runs for two weeks. We got a sneak peek last weekend of the display and got to share that with those involved in its impact.
Below is the story of the Martin family of Prosser. Next week we'll share the family legacy of Feliciano Benitez.
The Martin Family
Faith, Respect, Trust, Love, Unity and Mom's Cooking are values that surfaced again and again with the Martin family as they shared about their past, their family and their love and concern for each other.
Jose and Maria Martin migrated from Mexico to the United States in 1978 with their three oldest children and a daughter on the way. They made their home in Prosser where they found work and housing with Golden Gate Hops Ranch.
The couple first met near their rural Mexico homes in the Jalisco region of Mexico. They were introduced by family and their courtship led to a marriage that has now lasted 45 years and counting. Together they have raised nine children and have 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Juanita (Lopez) is the oldest of the children. Juanita was the very first in the family to attend and graduate from high school, a special milestone her parents never had the opportunity to experience in Mexico. Juanita and her husband have four children and one grandchild. Juanita is the Director of Purchasing for Fruit Smart. She's been with the company for 12 years.
Juanita was a second mother for her siblings allowing her own mom to work to provide for the family. Juanita shared she never considered involvement in school beyond her academic achievements. Sports, school clubs and other extra-curricular activities were not in the plan she saw for herself. She speaks with pride about the special role she had in her family helping with doctor appointments, picking out school supplies and taking care of her eight younger siblings. She also didn't consider college for herself but encouraged that options for her brothers and sisters.
Jesus "Chui" was the first to chart a path to college, much to the initial despair of his parents. Chui shared that advisors from his high school saw potential in him and pushed for him to attend college. He was convinced as soon as he visited the WSU campus on a class trip but it took a lot more to convince his parents. His mom especially just didn't want him to move so far away from his family. When it was time to make the move to Pullman, a caravan from their family and community escorted Chui. He still remembers hugging his mom when it was time to leave and she still clearly remembers the heartbreak of seeing him standing all alone as they departed.
At WSU, Chui obtained a degree in education. After exploring other professions and gaining some additional life experience, Chui started teaching. Most recently he was a Spanish teacher at Prosser High School and will begin fall 2018 at Seattle Prep teaching College Bridge Spanish.
Each of the siblings after Chui continued on to college after high school.
Guadalupe "Lupe" was next to graduate from Prosser High School. His path took him to Eastern Washington University and a criminal justice degree. Lupe will soon complete his 18th year with the Grandview Police Department. He has two children.
Josefina Martin-Smith also continued on to Eastern Washington University following graduation from Prosser High School. She completed her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work. She is using her education back at Prosser High School where she is a student advocate and migrant graduation specialist. Josefina has been with the school district for nine years. Josefina has four children and one grandchild.
Veronica joined her siblings at Eastern Washington University and then followed her oldest sister to Fruit Smart. Veronica is the sales coordinator for Fruit Smart and has been with the company for 10 years.
After taking a short break following high school, Rolando decided to pursue a career in agriculture and began his college career at Eastern Washington University. He transferred to Washington State University and began engaging with professors and advisors in the ag college. At the time of graduation, the employment market wasn't too favorable so at the urging of his professor Rolando stayed on and completed his master's degree. During this time, Rolando participated in ag research and made contacts for his future career.
Currently, Rolando is an area manager for Washington Fruit & Produce with oversight of 1100 acres of apples. He's been with Washington Fruit for eight years.
Rolando is the family's first tie to the Washington Apple Education Foundation (WAEF). Rolando has assisted the foundation share with high school students about ag careers and served on our scholarship selection committee. This May he was elected to the WAEF Board of Directors.
Lorena's education path took her from high school to the Art Institute in Seattle and eventually to Washington State University. She followed Rolando to Washington Fruit & Produce where she's worked with the company for six years developing food safety protocols and compliance in the orchards. She has four children.
Ana Maria is working as a medical assistant at Prosser Hospital and working on completing her degree to become a registered nurse. She's been with the hospital for 15 years working in progressive jobs as her skills and education advanced. She has two children.
The youngest, Patricia, graduated seven years ago from Eastern Washington University. She is currently working for the City of Pasco as a recreation specialist.
The Martin siblings span 15 years.
While raising their children, Jose and Maria worked in agriculture to feed, clothe and house their family. In addition to their 13-year career with Golden Gate Hops Ranch, the couple did various other labor jobs as needed with area crops. It was shared that when pay was based on piece rate, mom always won!
Agriculture is in the family's blood and the passion for working the land was ignited in Jose while a young child working with his dad to farm beans and corn in Mexico. The legacy continued with the Martin kids. They laughed sharing stories of picking asparagus before school and sometimes not having enough time to shower before the first bell. Their stories of hard work that may turn others away were instead full of happy memories and pride - it was what they could do to contribute to the household.
Currently, Jose is working for Washington State University Research and Extension Center in Prosser as an irrigation specialist. His acute attention to detail, work ethic and sense of loyalty have benefitted the research center. Maria operates a respected daycare and nourishes kids and community with her amazing culinary skills. She's sought after to help with church events.
Jose and Maria have a strong faith, shared by their children. The Catholic religion is a pillar in their lives as is family. When asked about their wishes for their kids, Jose, Maria and their children stress the importance of staying true to their faith, retaining their cultural roots, continuing their education and staying loyal to family.
The family unity shared amongst the Martin family is hard to miss. Juanita shared they do what they do to make their parents proud and repay them for all they've done. It appears this will continue through the next generation. This year Adrian Lopez, Juanita's son, became a WAEF scholarship recipient. He is enrolled in the ag college at Washington State University with plans to continue the family legacy.