From the Crops to the Classroom

As a young child living in a small home in Mexico City, Esteban Garcia recalls using sun-warmed water from a 5-gallon bucket to bathe. “There were three of us kids and my mom had one for each of us,” he shares. “We grew up in poverty.”

When the family moved to the U.S. in 2000, they found work as pickers in the fields of Santa Maria. Esteban remembers using his small hands to help his family collect strawberries and other seasonal produce starting each morning at 5 am. “My family has done agricultural work as long as I can remember,” Esteban says. “My grandparents grew corn in Mexico and would make tortillas with it, but also used the husks to make beds and supplies.

The work was laborious but for Esteban, it was familiar and, in some ways, comfortable. He remembers picking fruit after graduating high school when his uncle told him he needed to go do something bigger with the opportunity he was afforded. But college is expensive and without a roadmap drawn for him by a previous relative, the idea of pursuing a degree was daunting. He took a leap of faith and enrolled in Fresno State University’s viticulture program, working long hours in addition to his coursework to fund his education.

In 2019, Esteban’s field manager told him about a scholarship for farm workers (the Juan Nevarez Memorial Scholarship) and encouraged him to apply. “I got it three years in a row,” he says. The collective $13,000 he received made it possible for this father of two to attend university — the first in his family to do so. “One day I want to be a vice president or director of operations for a winery,” he explains.

Continue reading this beautiful story to learn how Paso Robles vintner Eric Jensen is helping migrant workers elevate their careers and how the Juan Nevarez Memorial Scholarship continues to help first-generation college students just like Esteban.

Thank you to Aja Goare for featuring these stories in the Fall 2022 edition of Edible San Luis Obispo.

Esteban's Updates

Spring 2022

Today, I have an A.A. in Enology/Viticulture, A.S in Viticulture, a Certificate of Achievement in Viticulture, and will receive my bachelor’s in Viticulture from CSU Fresno next year. I’m grateful for the sacrifices my parents made. This country has a lot of opportunities for my family. My success is not only going to be mine; it will be my family’s. I want to be part of the legacy of people that have helped me in my journey.

November 2021

I never imagined myself attending a University. I was once told that I wasn’t going to graduate high school and that my English wasn’t good enough. If it weren’t for the people that believed in me, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. Now, that I’m close to wrapping up my studies, and starting my career, I have proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. Thank you donors for helping me make my dream come true. Not only have you helped me, but you have planted a seed that will grow and one day will give back to others. Thank you!

March 2020

My name is Esteban Garcia and I’m 28 years old. I’m a father of two children. My oldest daughter is eleven years and my youngest is two years old.

I was born in Mexico City, Mexico. Growing up I never saw an education ahead of me. I was born into a family of poverty. At the age of 8, I started my first year of the second grade at Adam Elementary School. The thought of finally being able to learn was both exciting and scary. I was scared because I did not speak English.

I became a young dad at the age of 17. My mindset changed drastically, but I still didn’t realize how important school was.

Both of my parents would work, but the income being made was never enough. I am the middle child out of five kids. My parents settled down to work in the agricultural field, which has only been general laborers. My family has always lived off growing crops. My grandparents would grow corn for their everyday needs. So, all I know is agriculture.

When I become a vineyard manager, I want to give back to the community of agriculture workers. This scholarship has inspired me to either create my own scholarship or donate. I want to be part of the legacy of people that have helped me in my journey.