Agrícola Chaparral founded by Don Jose Maria “Chema” Gallardo in the 60s, is one of the companies with the longest horticultural export tradition in Sinaloa. Everyone remembers Don Chema with great affection, for his intelligence and work ethic. His son-in-law, renowned lawyer, politician, and farmer, Mr. Sergio “Pio” Esquer, is the current head of this important agricultural company in Sinaloa. And it is precisely this leadership that has allowed them to have collaborators with great affection for the exporting company.
I have been getting up early for so many years that I no longer need an alarm clock. I have a great love for my husband, and every day, I want nothing more than to see my grandchildren, but I can’t deny that my work at Agricola Chaparral is what motivates me to get up every morning. Today I woke up a little before 6 a.m. Thank you, God, for another day of life! The weather, this January 6th is nice, one of those cold ones that help you wake up your senses, without freezing your bones. So, I put on a light jacket and go for a walk for about half an hour, relax, and try to distract my thoughts with the sunrise, the trees and the birds singing. It is not yet time to think about work.
After walking a few blocks, I come back and prepare breakfast for my husband and myself. I haven’t lost the touch to make some delicious “huevitos rancheros”.
I’m not going to deny that I’m calm, the fresh produce prices have been good these last few weeks. With that peace of mind, I drive off to work.
On the way, I have one of those moments of nostalgia. I begin to remember how a couple of decades ago we had a different experience around this time. Back then it was the year of El Niño, and it was raining cats and dogs. I remember how at the end of the season we were on the verge of going out of business.
How it rained on the field! What a thing of life, what would have become of me if this had not continued?Chaparral is my life!
I say a short prayer to heaven for Mr. Jose Maria Gallardo, founder of the business and who, in those years, took the company forward.
I arrive, I check my emails, and I see the pending, then I set off on one of my favorite activities of the day: visiting some of the housing where our collaborators from the south of Mexico live! I make sure that everything is working as it should, the nurseries, the classrooms, the houses, the clinics, and the water treatment plants. There are more than 4,000 agricultural workers to whom we owe our appreciation for their work with the company. Now and then I get a surprise from them, a handicraft, or a hug from the children before they go to kindergarten. -Everything is in order this morning.
It’s 9:45 and the agenda shows me that I have a field production meeting. This time it will be here in Culiacan, in Villa Juarez. Last week I was in La Cruz de Elota, an hour from here.
The meeting is attended by the field production managers, the entomologist, the nutrition and technical staff, social workers, and some of the farm stewards. For several years I was the only woman participating on the administration side, today fortunately not anymore.
The weather has been wet the last few days, with drizzle, and some additional applications need to be made for the bacteria. It is important to be aware of what supplies are going to be ordered, and that there is availability and a good price. You must take care of everything, to do more with less every day.
I return to the office; it has been an active morning. I decided to visit the comptroller and not just ask for numbers. I like talking to him, he’s fun, and he always greets me with a hug. “We Mexicans hug each other from heart to heart,” he always says. He loves to motivate us. He always encourages us. Don’t think we take a lot of time, about 10-15 minutes to wake up.
Also in between chats we review operational and strategic indicators and corrective actions.
It’s almost noon and it’s time to do something I love: business coaching. A few years ago, we took some courses with Sael Barraza and now we do coaching. I have several colleagues in my charge, and we seek to have a space with each one of them. We get to know their work and personal challenges if they decide to share them. We look at their job indicators, but also see how we can support them, from a financial need to personal and professional support, where we also offer to pay part of the tuition if they want to grow professionally. And it is precisely these small details that make this company so loved by its employees.
What can I tell you? I love to tell the story of my 25th anniversary at the company. On that day my boss, Mr. Sergio R. Esquer P., told me to make a payment to a well-known jeweler and so I did. What I didn’t know was that it was a gift for me: a beautiful watch! They gave it to me that night at a dinner they organized for me and invited my family, my work team, and even my ‘comadres’ to a surprise party. They also celebrated my 40th anniversary with chaparral group. I am looking forward to my 50th anniversary. It is 1:30 in the afternoon. Time for lunch. We have a delicious meal in the company canteen, which so far
is free of charge, we stay for a little while and there is always someone to talk to and exchange ideas with.
Back at the office, I must check the invoices. A bit tedious, but necessary. We are already working on software that will help us to make it more agile. Then we make some payments and check the exchange rates.
I take the opportunity to send a WhatsApp message to Mr. Sergio R. Esquer, informing him of some details of the payments. As always, he answers me back and helps me with my request.
It is 3.30 p.m. I am notified an official audit from the state labor department has arrived, happens from time to time. Fortunately, we have everything in order, and we always come out ahead. Challenges I had when a couple of decades ago we had a strike called by the Union of Farm Workers or when we had a strike by the truck drivers. Both were challenges that I had to face and resolve. Believe it or not, win-win helped me a lot in these negotiations. However, I must confess, that when it comes to firing someone justifiably, I ask someone else to do it for me. Knowing that someone will be temporarily without a livelihood hurts me. In the end, sometimes people don’t take their family into account when they make serious mistakes.
It’s 4:30 p.m. and I have one more meeting. This one is on costs, budgets, and finances. We make sure we have the right people in the field and packing house. We keep an eye on sales through Nogales and McAllen. It is an important meeting.
It’s 6:30 p.m. and time to end the day on a high note. I drive home, thinking about one of the best decisions I made 45 years ago, coming to work in Chaparral. I work very happily. And I even get paid for doing it!
It’s time to pick up my husband. We’re going to visit our grandchildren. Today we are taking them out for dinner, sometimes we do it at home and sometimes we do it outside. We do this 2-3 times a week. It is always an inspiring, watching them grow up, with healthy and loving grandparents. I thank my husband, Miguel Angel, my children, Diana and Miguel, and God, and I see how important
it is to have the peace of mind of a job that helped us to get ahead, to give them a good education, and to see them grow personally and professionally.
And just before I go to sleep and give thanks for one more day of life, I continue imagining and planning my legacy for Chaparral: A Foundation to support farmworkers both in the company and in their home places. I know very well that in their hometowns they have needs and we want to help them there as well. It is only a matter of time. And it will be the way to repay what Don Jose Ma. Gallardo and his family, Mr. Sergio R. Esquer P., my colleagues, and Chaparral have done for me.
For all the above and what is still to come, thank you very much!
Socorro Garcia Madrid