Sunday, January 25, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Field to fork: From bracero to granddad of the market

DanKennedyC.eps

By
From page A9 | September 25, 2013 |

A great many people walk on by, but there are those who stop. It’s a small stall, as vendor space goes at the Davis Farmers Market. It’s fundamental, easily passed, as it doesn’t sport the eye-catching retail design displayed by some of the other vendors. Small baskets, boxes, piles. Whatever’s fresh that week is on display from Cadena Ranch.

In a few weeks Ramon Cadena turns 80. He and his wife, Lucila, have been at the market since its earliest days. He farmed more back then. Today his godchild, who is in the Capay Organic and Farm Fresh To You organization, grows crops on 14 of the Cadenas’ 27 acres in Esparto.

I dropped by their ranch earlier this month. Their dog, a chicken and a dozen cats showed varying levels of interest in me. We sat in resin chairs under a big tree in the side yard.

Today there are 4,000 small farmers who are certified and sell at California farmers’ markets. Few would tell a story like the Cadenas.

The federal government started the bracero program in 1942, looking to bring manual laborers from Mexico at a time when American men were at war. A reversal, really, because in the 1930s half a million Mexican laborers were deported — it was the Great Depression, a hard-scrabble time in the farm fields.

Ramon came to the U.S. in 1955. For the Mexicans, emigrating held promise of a new life. But poor pay, harsh conditions, irregularities in the availability of food meant that, for many, they were difficult days.

“All the houses bosses would provide were like chicken coops,” Ramon recalled. “I thought, ‘Good Lord, give me the strength to build an adobe house.’”

He’d known Lucila from their hometown, Guadalajara, since the age of 12. The way he saw it, he couldn’t bring her to the States and start a family until he had this house. “I made bricks, and one day I could say, ‘Now I am ready.’” That was 1962.

The house he’d built was in Rumsey. He and Lucy then worked hard on their dream. They had three children. Ramon commuted to Woodland where he could learn English when he wasn’t otherwise working. That paid off, as he secured a bookkeeping position with Diamond Lumber in Esparto, where he worked for 14 years.

One day the Cadenases went to check out an old house in Esparto, more than 100 years old, that was in terrible shape. Successive renters had taken their toll. Still, they figured they had the skills and industry to make it habitable, so they bought it in 1971. They did the house over and still live there today.

When the Davis Farmers Market got underway, Ramon and Lucy were among the early vendors. They brought nuts, fruit and vegetables. It was a different era. Many of the vendors were backyard growers, not needing to make a living. Ramon also remembers a vendor from north of Woodland who was selling stolen melons at prices that undercut legitimate vendors like him. He served on the market’s board for a time.

These days Ramon puts in six hours of work in the morning, then calls it a day. “I wish he would quit,” Lucy said, but this is clearly his life. Right now, rows of young leeks, others of basil, more of broccoli. Citrus trees. Cactus. Peach trees that Lucy had grown from pits, which just isn’t done in American agriculture. And then there are all the people they have known at the market through the generations.

“All his children and grandchildren grew up at the market,” said Randii MacNear, market manager. “People ask after him if he isn’t there. He’s like the grandfather of the market.”

Ramon and Lucy haven’t forgotten where they’ve come from. Suzanne DePalmas, a volunteer, brings them day-old bread from Davis stores during Saturday market hours — sometimes enough to fill half the bed of their pickup, Ramon said. He and Lucy then bring it to St. Martin’s R.C. Church in Esparto on Saturday evenings for distribution to people in need. Day-old, that’s nothing.

For Ramon and Lucy Cadena, the bracero program did open a door. It got them here, and enabled eventual citizenship. The road was hard, the one they traveled. Not that you would know if you passed by their stall on Saturdays, where they observe and step up to greet those they know, and those they don’t.

— Dan Kennedy, a Davis resident, has a long history with the bounty of gardens and small farms. Reach him at kennedynow@yahoo.com

Comments

comments

.

News

Red Cross honors community heroes

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Winter produce available at Sutter market

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Share your love (story) with us

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Donations to be distributed during homeless count

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Speaker will share computer security tips

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

 
Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Words and Music Festival events

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12

 
Davis, Woodland are saving water

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

.

Forum

Family isn’t keen on relationship

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

 
 
Caring for the aging mouth

By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

 
We have the right to choose

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

We don’t have to suffer

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
City helped immensely

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

 
From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

 
UCD men take two tennis matches

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

 
Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

 
UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9

 
.

Obituaries

Thomas George Byrne

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8