Testimony of Jacinto Carino Soons Orchards New Hampton NY for May 2 2019 Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act hearing at Sullivan CC
Good afternoon members of the legislature,
My name is Jacinto Carino and I am the Soons Orchards foreman and manager of the farm’s more than 30 acres of fruit trees and vegetable garden. These are my co-workers and relatives with me: Fausto, Roberto, and Miguel.
I have worked with Soons Orchards since 1989 – a very long time! I came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1983. In 2010 I became a resident, and on February 15 2019 I became a United States citizen. I still visit family in Mexico every year for about a month during the winter season.
Before joining Soons I lived in Brooklyn and worked in different restaurants as a cook. I also did some construction jobs and at one point I toured around the U.S. playing and singing with my mariachi band.
After a few years I landed in Goshen NY and one day Arthur Soons, the owner of Soons Orchards, found me and my brother at the suggestion of a local restaurant. He asked if we wanted to work for him and we said yes! of course!
Out of all the jobs that I have had, I prefer working on the farm because I have always been a farmer. As a young boy in Mexico my father was a farmer of sugar cane fields – that’s how I was raised, always working hard. So when this opportunity was offered I couldn’t say no. Coming to work at Soons almost felt like being back at home in Mexico.
I have raised two daughters here, now 31 and 23, both of whom worked in the Soons farm store as teenagers.
I also have family members that travel here every year on H2A visas. Together we work as a team. We do pruning, planting vegetables and trees, harvesting and picking fruit, and many other tasks that take over 6 months to bring good crops to the market at Soons. My fellow workers and I receive free housing, utilities and good wages. As a full time/year round employee, I also receive paid time off.
Some days I work only a few hours, for example if there’s rain half the day or it’s very cold in the winter. Other days we’ll work 10 or even 11 hours. It all depends on what is ready and what the weather allows. We take most Sundays off, but sometimes we’ll work a half day and continue picking apples. I talk to Jeff Soons and we decide what’s most important to get picked and when. Many people don’t know that apples will fall off the tree if you don’t pick them when they are ready. Once they fall, we can’t sell them. And other vegetables will get overripe, rot, or otherwise spoil if you don’t pick them when ready.
I do not support this bill because it is unneeded. My co-workers and I enjoy our jobs and we are doing very well for ourselves…. otherwise we would not be here for almost 30 years. We take great pride in what we grow here -- 25 acres of apples, 5 acres of peaches, 10 acres of pumpkins and squash and several acres of mixed vegetables, including garlic which I suggested planting a few years ago and has been very successful. We are doing well and do not want to risk losing hours because the farm cannot afford overtime. And I know the farm just breaks even each year, or makes just enough to get another used tractor or do overdue upkeep. Our "patron" and orchard owner, Art Soons fixes everything and doesn’t ever buy anything new!
And, since I am doing so well, I also see no reason to pay out of our paychecks for a union which is also unneeded. And I know my fellow workers feel the same.
Thank you for this chance to share my experience and views with you. I hope you will do the right thing for NY farmers like me and let us continue to do what we do best – grow great food!