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We created a Migrant Worker Wall to display the contributions of the many migrant workers in the area. This project was sponsored my Ricardo Ordonez, who was born and raised in Oxnard and whose family has a tie to agriculture dating back to the 1920s. David Kesterson from Lauterbach & Associates donated the plans for the portable display and Denise Kroneberger answered the call to build the display. 

Migration to Oxnard began as early as 1867 with the arrival of German born immigrant Christian Borchard and his family, along with nephew Caspar Borchard and fellow countrymen Gottfried Maulhardt and his wife, Sophie.

Above: Gottfried worked in the barley fields for the Borchards and from an 1872 ledger it shows he earned $1.50 an acre to help harvest the area’s first crop.

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More Germans followed: Diedrich, Friedrich, Kohler, Wucherpfennig. Louis Pfeiler was from Austria. Many other European immigrants arrived in the next few years including the Irish born Cloyne, Connelly, Donlon, Gill, McGrath & McCormick families. French born Justin and Frank Petit also arrived by the 1870s.

Left: Japanese workers at the Kohler Ranch picking celery.

During these early years the main crop was barley along with corn grown for the livestock. Lima beans were introduced in the 1880s and was another example of dry farming, meaning there wasn’t a dedicated water source and the crops could flourish with the winter and spring rains and the fog from the coast. This kept the population low because a large work force was not needed to work the fields.

Right: Ysidro and Polo Ordonez among the field workers picking carrots in Oxnard.

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However, with the introduction of the sugar beet in 1898, the demand for migrant workers was reintroduced and has continued to be a vital part of Ventura County agricultural growth.

Left: Portuguese workers threshing lima beans circa 1910 on the Louis Maulhardt Ranch off Rice Road.

Young, male Japanese workers arrived at this time and became the majority workforce in the beet fields. Migrants from Mexico began arriving at the same time. Soon, groups of workers from Portugal and the Philippines also contributed to the work force. 

Right: Ladies at Seaboard Lemon Association.

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Below: A panoramic of the Braceros from Jalisco, Mexico in 1950 who pick lemons at the Ed Petit Ranch.

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