PARMA, Idaho — Eliana Ramírez emigrated to the U.S. several years ago from Puebla, Mexico and before relocating she was in the beginning stages of attending a university in Cancun.
“At that time my mom got sick, she got cancer. I had to drop (out) of school,” she said.
Ramírez settled in Reno, Nevada, and started working to help pay for her mom’s treatment expenses. Reno is where she met her husband and then the couple made their way to Ontario, Oregon.
“We moved to be closer to his family,” she said.
While working in the fields picking crops from onions to apples, she took another leap of faith.
“I received a call from one of my friends that they needed some QC’s for Owyhee Produce, and they were supposed to do an interview and a math test. I remember them calling me that I passed the math test 100 percent,” she said.
It was then she met Shay Myers, a third-generation farmer and CEO of Owyhee Produce.
From that point, everything changed for Eliana. Myers offered her a position as an onion sorter, Eliana quickly learn the operations, and was offered a higher up position.
“It’s more by a computer, everything is a technology I can run everything. I would have to build some programs depending on the quality of the onions or damage,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said she’s grateful for the job opportunity, and while working for Owyhee Produce, she earned her GED through Treasure Valley Community College in 2019 and improved her English.
“I couldn’t believe it, how am I doing this," she said.
She was in the process of taking college classes when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and put a halt to her college education to support her children as they transition to virtual learning. She does plans to resume her education studies.
Ramirez said the company has become like her second family, and that Myers finds ways to support the employees and advocate for the Hispanic community.
“We are not just employees for him, he’s always taking care of our needs,” she said.
IDAHO/ OREGON FARMER SUPPORTS FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM.
It is the roots of Meyer's hometown of Nyssa that he grew to be supportive of the Latino and Hispanic community.
Myers has been making headlines in 2021, using social media to advocate for immigration reform. In July, Myers spoke in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a hearing to discussed the proposed Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
“I always had a different point of immigration because I grew up in Nyssa, Oregon. It’s a community with lots of Latinos. In my speech, I alluded to that a little bit. The number of kids that I grew up with had parents or grandparents or themselves work in the fields, and I understood and knew them on a personal level,” Myers said.
The proposed act aims to provide a legal path toward citizenship for undocumented farmworkers and modify the H2A program.
"It’s a silver bullet, really well-thought-out good compromise in solving the farmworker situation. I can understand politically in this very moment in time, frankly a year ago would have been easier than today because of the situation at the border. It gives those harder to convince, it makes it easier for them to oppose fixing the problem now because of all the additional problems," Myers said.
In the past month, the company has also highlighted a team on social media for the community to get to know the employees and for Ramirez, she admires Myers for standing up for what he believes in.
“All I can say is that I’m proud of him,” Ramirez said.