Madonia said growers should maintain a mindset of treating their workers well. In 2008, the grower-shipper constructed a community center and day care facility adjacent to its packinghouse.
The family-run East Coast leases the facility, which also includes a computer center and features weekly Catholic services, to the Immokalee-based Redlands Christian Migrant Association for $1 a year.
“You cannot go wrong treating your workers as well as you can,” Madonia said.
“You cannot go wrong making sure these people are protected, paid fairly and treated humanely. I think our workers appreciate everything we’ve done as much as we appreciate everything they do for us.”
Madonia said East Coast tries to accommodate any reasonable worker request.
In Virginia, East Coast constructed soccer fields behind its packinghouse and sponsors soccer and baseball leagues for workers.
Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of broker Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers, said Florida growers remain dedicated to producing high-quality tomatoes.
“Florida growers have a pretty good crop,” he said.
“They do what it takes to make the product good. It’s just that our costs are going up. Still, Florida’s growers remain the eternal optimists. They know what everything costs, such as fertilizer spray, plastic and other material. But they don’t know what they’ll get for their products. They just hope it will all come out.”