Aguiar completes journey from farm worker to farm advisor
Jose Luis Aguiar, who has been working as a vegetable crops small farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension in the Coachella Valley in Riverside County since 1992, will retire on July 1, 2020.
"My job is one of the best jobs in the world. I enjoy the research and education that we provide our community. From the beginning, there was so much to learn, and it has been that way every day on the job," Aguiar said.
What started many years ago to help his family economically became a passion turned into a career. He was 12 years old when he started working alongside his father in the Coachella Valley agricultural fields.
"When all my friends went on vacation, I was going to work in the fields. It was my turn to sow asparagus. Harvesting okra I did not like at all because you have to put on a long shirt, because pollen scratches you a lot; it is a very difficult crop to harvest," Aguiar recalled.
Aguiar specializes in bell peppers, which was a great help in 2012. That year in the Coachella Valley, a microscopic worm called root-knot nematode infested the roots of peppers, threatening the 5,000 acres of this crop valued at $90 million. UCANR experts worked with farmers to understand why it was a problem there and not in other pepper growing areas.UC ANR pepper workgroup to research these problems came about.
“Meeting with the small scale producers, I had a list of 12 or 15 problems,” Aguiar said. “I started to speak with other advisors about having a conference for limited-scale producers where we could present them with research-based information. I invited all the small farmers, and we covered production problems, insect and disease problems, postharvest and even marketing of their particular crops."
For Aguiar, who earned his bachelor's degree in vegetable crops at UC Davis and graduated from the highly regarded California Agricultural Leadership Program in 2010, his professional journey has been one of learning and giving back to the community where he grew up.
He expressed the essence of his 20 years of passion at work: "I have enjoyed presenting research-based information to farmers and pest control advisers. I have enjoyed walking in many fields and seeing and hearing about the problems firsthand. I have enjoyed working with the small farmers, addressing some of the issues, such as producing a crop with a limited budget. I have enjoyed collaborating with many UC farm advisors, specialists and the local agencies involved in agriculture. I have enjoyed working with groups working on community gardens."
Aguiar recognizes that there is too much left to be done. But right now, all those small farmers, field workers and community organizations who have had the opportunity of working with Aguiar have been wishing him the best in his new chapter in life.