In March of 1964, a seventeen-year-old boy named Abel Maldonado Sr. arrived in Watsonville, CA, leaving everything back in his home state of Jalisco, Mexico. He travelled to the United States through the Bracero program, established in 1942, where Mexico and the United States allowed millions of men to come work legally on short term labor contracts. In September of that same year once his contract was fulfilled, he returned to his hometown of Santa Maria del Oro, Jalisco.

In February of 1965, he applied for a passport in Brownsville, Texas. Upon receiving his passport, he then followed an uncle to a small town located on the Central Coast, Santa Maria, CA. There he planted deeper roots than any crop, a family.

In 1977, Abel Maldonado & Sons was a strawberry producer in the Santa Maria Valley. There the family of five, at the time, worked towards their American Dream. Throughout the years their operation became more diverse, farming vegetables as well.

Now farming strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, avocados, and iceberg lettuce.

As the business grew so did the dream. Agro-Jal Farms Enterprises is a true family owned and operated business since 1988, when it incorporated. In 1991 the Maldonado family purchased a property in the heart of Santa Maria. Later in 1994 they built a 35,000 square foot cooling facility, to cool not only their own produce but custom cool for other growers.

They now have three cooling facilities in the Santa Maria Valley. Farming in Santa Maria, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, and Lompoc, CA. Maldonado Sr. brings 55+ years of farming and field management experience. His numerous years of personal experience offer tremendous benefits to his family members along with their employees. Patricia and Frank Maldonado, who are twins, and two of his six children, work alongside their father every day. Both Patricia and Frank were raised on the ranch, picking strawberries since they were five years old.

At the age of sixteen, Patricia began working in the administration office. Learning all the moving parts consisting of payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and any other office duties. By the age of twenty-five she became the sales manager and remained for the twenty years to follow. Present day Patricia is a partner in the family business and is involved in daily operations.

Frank started loading and hauling produce from field to cooler by the age of sixteen. He learned all the important skills that are necessary to manage this large of a farm operation. He was his father’s right hand and the two shared the same vision of buying as much ground as they could.

Today Frank is the President/CEO of Agro-Jal Farms aiding his father in continuously growing the business. On top of farming, the Maldonado family has ventured into the real estate industry investing in their hometown and surrounding areas. The family has acquired thousands of acres of farm ground, as well as growing their commercial real estate portfolio.

Agro-Jal Farms is one of the top five agricultural companies in the Santa Maria Valley. This valley is one of the last three resources in the state for quality vegetable produce. Agro-Jal provides immediate product to the western United States. Internationally, we sell to the Pacific Rim including Japan and China. We also export to Canada and Mexico daily.

The Agro-Jal team has expanded. Grandchildren are now involved in the learning of external and internal operations. This is a new chapter for the family business. The next generation learns from the past, and the tradition continues. The legacy of the family will carry through the third generation and many to come. The Maldonado family has demonstrated that the American dream of success for immigrants to this country is still possible.