By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Editor-in-Chief
MOORPARK — On a cool June morning, Sen. Alex Padilla was not wearing his usual coat and tie, but a blue flannel shirt, jeans, work gloves and knee pads. In the vast fields of Muranaka Farm in Moorpark, the young Californian senator began at 6:30 a.m. to work Italian parsley, before moving on to radishes.
Looking attentive, Padilla cut the radishes and placed them in green crates. The farmhands passed the senator, quickly gathering the small bunches of bright red radishes.
“The radish team is very specialized. It’s very difficult to do,” observed Charles Muranaka, Vice President of Muranaka Farm.
“I was invited by the UFW union to come and spend a day working alongside the women and men who work in the fields every day to pay their respects,” Padilla said. “I have been defending agricultural workers for many years. I gained a deeper appreciation. I know that the work is important, that it is essential. Now I can testify to the difficulty of the work.
Immigration reform has been a key platform for Padilla, who is the first Latino to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Security. He supports the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, passed in the House in March 2021, which would allow undocumented farm workers to earn the right to stay permanently in this country by continuing to work in the country. agriculture.
Muranaka Farm was selected for the senator’s working visit as part of the UFW Foundation’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign for immigration reform.
The farm was founded by Minoru Muranaka and his wife, Matsue, who started as sharecroppers. Today, their grandson, Charles Muranaka, is in charge of day-to-day operations.
“It’s wonderful that the senator took the time to come and see what our teams do every day. Certainly immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship are important issues and we are grateful that the senator took the time to see us,” Muranaka said.
The Muranaka farm was chosen because it is a union farm employing 200 workers. As part of its efforts to support its workers, the farm, in conjunction with Ventura County Public Health, held COVID vaccination clinics in March 2021.
“Our farm requires a lot of work. Our crops are worked by hand, so we need a lot of people to make that happen. Certainly having more visibility hopefully helps,” Muranaka said.
Among Muranaka Farm’s biggest clients is Sprouts, which has been a donor and partner of the foundation since 2016.
“Our daily bread is the retail market. They want consistent quality and price, they are willing to pay for quality and reliability,” Muranaka said.
During their lunch break, Padilla addressed the workers in Spanish and listened to the thoughts of Epimenio, who has worked on the farm for years. Muranaka later explained that many workers had been on the farm for decades, some of whom remembered working with his grandmother.
As a third-generation farmer, Muranaka said he hopes to carry on the family legacy. The farm also supports the Valley Japanese Community Center and the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center.
“One of the things my dad pushed a lot was to have a solid understanding of the farm and all of the opportunities that are available to all of us,” he said. “He wanted me to stay grounded in the business. My boys are 14 and 12, and I tried to do the same with them. If they are interested I will do everything I can to grow and scale the business, it has changed so much since I started.
Padilla praised Muranaka Farm as an example of the American dream.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we are hosted by Muranaka Farms, a third generation family farm here in Moorpark. Not too far from SFV, where we live, and one of the few union farms in the area,” Padilla said. “I think given the nature of the job and how difficult it is, the need to treat your employees well and keep them coming back is important for businesses.
“What a great story to be here at Muranaka Farm as the A show of the American dream came true, generation after generation, successful business and employer. It is important to shine a light on these stories, especially given the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes targeting the Asian community.