As president of Fuentes Berry Farms, Rogelio (Roy) Fuentes is one of many independent growers producing organic berries for Driscoll’s—a company that was initiated more than a century ago by two strawberry farmers on California’s Central Coast, and has since evolved into an international concern devoted to research, breeding, production, sales and distribution of conventionally and organically farmed strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter and his brother Garland, CEO of Reiter Affiliated Companies, are the grandsons of Joseph “Ed” Reiter, who began growing strawberries in the Pajaro Valley with Dick Driscoll in 1904. The Reiters have a reputation for providing partnership opportunities for talented, hardworking, ambitious Mexican American farmers.
Fuentes was born in San Pedro Tesistan, Jalisco, Mexico, and came to Watsonville, California, as a teenager. He spent summers harvesting the berry fields his father managed. After graduating from Watsonville High School in 1979, Fuentes worked in banking for a while, but five years later returned to the fields. He began harvesting strawberries and rapidly worked his way up to management positions. Gradually branching out into blackberries and raspberries, he also became interested, in 1994, in organic cultivation. Since 2003 he has been producing organic berries exclusively. His growing company employs some 100 workers, providing health insurance and a small number of paid holidays.
Sarah Rabkin interviewed Roy Fuentes on June 16, 2009, at the Reiter Affiliated Companies offices in Salinas, California. That morning, the San Jose Mercury News had reported that an organic blackberry grower near Watsonville had lost twenty percent or more of his crop to a recent invader from Australia, the light brown apple moth—sending “a shudder” through the agricultural community. Local organic berry growers were engaging in concerted deliberations about how best to respond.