California drought: Jobs, money dry up in farm towns
(SFGate) - Jose Pineda Rivas could use the cash. He's got rent to pay, and his tooth hurts so badly he needs to see a dentist.
But these days, money for fieldworkers like Rivas in this drought-parched stretch of California is about as scarce as rain. And the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
The 61-year-old farmhand, who lives in a small home with his wife and a friend's family, is hardly making enough to cover basic expenses, let alone pricey dental work. He thinks he can afford to get his aching tooth removed, he said. But actually replace it?
Not a chance.
As he tipped back his straw hat and morosely gazed at his flip phone on a recent day, Rivas explained that the crew boss at a nearby tomato farm was supposed to contact him about returning to work. But the call hadn't come.
It's the same desperate story all over the Central Valley.
Like many fieldworkers in Mendota, a rural community 35 miles west of Fresno dubbed the Cantaloupe Center of the World, Rivas finds his seasonal job of more than two decades at risk of disappearing because of the statewide drought.