La Voz Spotlight: Joe Del Bosque

Del Bosque

In San Joaquin Valley sits Del Bosque Farms, a farm that grows organic melons, almonds, and asparagus. Operated by Joe Del Bosque, a 67-year-old farmer and son of Mexican immigrant parents, the farm serves as an important learning utensil for many people from students to local leaders to President Barack Obama. Del Bosque has dedicated his time to passing on his agricultural knowledge which was cultivated by his parents and their strong work ethics.

“My parents were very hard-working people. My father taught me everything on the farm would be part of my education. He rewarded me for doing work and taught me that hard work is something you can excel at,” Del Bosque said. “My mother was inspirational in that she thought I could raise myself above where I was, and there were no ceilings in whatever I aspired to be.”

Del Bosque also expressed how his parents were different than the parents of his peers. While he saw his friends doing farm work as an ends to a means, his parents celebrated farm work as a way of life. Del Bosque’s parents’ hard working spirit rubbed off on him, and he grew up thinking that if he did whatever he wanted to with diligence, he would excel.

The hard work paid off. Now Del Bosque oversees a farm that encompasses approximately 2,000 acres. Del Bosque Farms is a family operation, with Del Bosque’s wife, Maria, managing their 300 workers and his daughter overseeing the administrative work. Though Del Bosque is committed to all aspects of the farm, the issue of watering the crops is perhaps most extensive.

“We’re pretty much hands-on as far as our watering goes,” Del Bosque said. “We use only the high-tech irrigation systems, and we’re very meticulous about being as efficient with our water as possible, which includes an agronomist that works for us. He covers exactly how much water we should put on our crops. It’s very intense the way we irrigate our crops and so forth.”

With the onset of the drought in 2009, Del Bosque recognized that the lack of water available for crops was increasingly becoming an issue with a troublesome domino effect. Without water, there would be no viable land, and without the land, there would be less jobs available at the farm.

“I’m 67, and I’m trying to pass on the farm to the next generation, but there are so many variance as to the water that I don’t know if we can continue to farm,” Del Bosque said. “And if not for the sake of having a viable farm or having viable crops, there’s a lot of demand for the crops that we grow, and we can grow them efficiently here, but without water we have nothing.”

Del Bosque’s eloquence and commitment to drought relief caught the attention of Obama in February 2014. As Obama visited Del Bosque Farms, Del Bosque underscored the importance of reservoirs and dams to the President and called for more government assistance with maintaining farms. Since that time, many people have asked Del Bosque to teach them about California agriculture, including a recent trip by Mexican students. “When the consul of Fresno asked me if they could bring students from Mexico, I said, ‘Absolutely. Let’s let them come and learn about agriculture,’” Del Bosque said. “Mexico is the country where my parents came from, and I don’t mind providing some insight on agriculture. I’m very happy to do that because I really believe that Mexico is improving a lot of things, and I’m happy to share my time with students.”

However, Del Bosque’s work in agriculture education extends beyond hosting students on his farm. He also serves on the Fresno State Agriculture Foundation board and has his own scholarship for students at California State University, Fresno. Noting that California has some of the most advanced agriculture technology in the world, he advises people to learn more about the burgeoning industry if not for themselves, for their children. “I encourage all to work and get their kids into college and become educated themselves,” Del Bosque said.