Carlos Castañeda’s father came to the U.S. as a farm laborer in 1964. Less than 30 years later, he was able to build a company now run by his son which provides labor and staffing to primarily small farms in the Santa Barbara Coast. But for the past three years – every year worse than the previous one – Castañeda says he does not have enough people – primarily immigrant laborers – to staff the farms who call for help with their harvests.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” says Castañeda, describing driving by farms and seeing produce which could not be harvested on time. “These growers – many Japanese-American, Mexican-American, finally got a break when people started buying local,” explains Castañeda. “They put seed and irrigation, a lot of investments. I doubt all of these farmers will be able to keep their business.”
Castañeda estimates that last year alone, labor was down by at least 28 to 30 percent. In recent years, as authorities have cracked down on immigration at the border and as deportations have increased, there are less laborers to work in the farms. He says his payroll has been in a downward spiral, and he is angry at the lack of immigration legislation in Washington.