Quincy Tomato still looking for workers as fall harvest arrives

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 17:28:11-04

QUINCY, Fla. (WTXL) — In April, the owner of Quincy Tomato in Gadsden County, Graves Williams, was preparing his hundreds of workers for a huge tomato harvest and had to fill jobs in the Quincy area in the middle of a pandemic.

The Rebound Tallahassee shows you the challenge he's had filling those jobs locally and how he continues the mission to feed people across the country.

"It's moving along real well," said Williams. "We think we put up the good fight with the virus."

That's thanks to the personal protective equipment he started buying earlier this year to keep his 600 plus workers safe and his tomatoes rolling out to market.

"So far, we have not had anybody sick," Williams said.

They process a lot of tomatoes in his facility. When it is up to full speed, they process 1,500 boxes an hour.

Nereida Hurtado supervises all the workers.

"I'm happy that he's protecting me and everybody else," said Hurtado.

It's a job she's come back to for 20 years now.

"I feel blessed," she said.

But not everyone is coming back to work. Williams says he's had reliable locals fill jobs in previous years.

"But they actually came to me in person this year and said they're not going to be able to work," said Williams. "Because, between Florida unemployment and federal unemployment, we're making $875 a week.'"

The pandemic predicament won't stop him from harvesting again this fall.

"There is a shortage today, and it won't last long, of tomatoes in the U.S.," Williams said.

He'll be giving local workers a chance at a paycheck once the unemployment benefits inevitably run out.

"I think we'll be okay," he said.

Quincy Tomato's biggest markets are Boston, NYC, Chicago, LA, and Canada. Williams says as more restaurants open back up the demand and price for tomatoes should go back up.