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BELL PEPPER PICKING

Fresh produce trucked to Eckert’s in Manteca

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BELL PEPPER PICKING

Freshly picked green peppers are dumped from a five-gallon plastic container onto a conveyor belt that carries the produce to waiting bins on a flatbed truck. The truck then transports the vegetabl...

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED July 18, 2013 1:00 a.m.

A new season started this week for some two-dozen workers. It’s bell pepper-picking time.

The seasonal summer workers started harvesting the colorful vegetable at a 70-acre field on Trahern Road between Union and South Manteca roads on earlier this week. Luis Garcia, one of the crew’s supervisors at the site, said Wednesday they expect to be done picking at this rural south Manteca field by Friday. After that, the crew will move on to another location in the area.

The workers, donning long-sleeved shirts and sweaters and wearing hats or baseball caps to protect them from the punishing heat of the summer sun, carefully but swiftly hand-picked each pepper which then got deposited in five-gallon plastic buckets. Once the bucket was full, the worker quickly emptied the contents onto a moving conveyor belt which carried the fresh-picked produce into waiting large plastic containers on the flatbed of a truck which promptly drove each cargo to Eckert’s Cold Storage on Moffat Avenue in Manteca where they were processed prior to distribution.

The bell pepper-pickers start working early each day to beat the heat. Garcia said they are usually at the site between 5:30 and 6 a.m. They get busy from then on until mid-afternoon when they wrap up for the day. That will be the workers’ daily routine for the next two months until all the bell peppers are picked, Garcia said.

Think of these seasonal workers next time you enjoy a pizza liberally sprinkled with this crunchy and nutritious vegetable. At Eckert’s Cold Storage, the bell peppers are washed and processed primarily for pizza chains. Hundreds of workers get this job done, as it has been for decades at this plant in Manteca which provides seasonal employment for generations of area residents during harvest time in the valley.

Many of the pickers on Wednesday came from Manteca and surrounding areas including Modesto and Merced. Rick Diaz of Porterville in Tulare County said he takes these summer field jobs on a routine basis to earn money for college. He is currently attending Porterville Community College where he is studying political science and economics.

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