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Morgan Hill
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August 12, 2020

Christopher Ranch boosts wages

The approximately 600 workers at Christopher Garlic’s production facility in Gilroy in July received a raise that’s part of an aggressive plan to increase wages in the nation’s biggest garlic producer.The increased wages benefit not only the workers but also the company, said Ken Christopher, Christopher’s executive vice president.Christopher Ranch increased the minimum wages for its workers from $11 per hour to $13 an hour in January 2017, and increased the company minimum again in July 2018, to $15 per hour."We now offer one of the highest minimum wages in the nation, and unlike many other agribusinesses, we're at full employment and even have a waitlist," Christopher said.Christopher Ranch was stung by a Netflix documentary in January that alleged that it benefited from imported garlic harvested by Chinese prison labor. The company has vehemently denied the allegations that it uses any imported Chinese garlic in its products, and believes its wage increase should go a long way to counteract any negative publicity from the documentary.Field workers are provided by the federal H2A Temporary Agricultural Program. Unlike many other farms, Ken Christopher claims that Christopher Ranch has had no trouble attracting farm workers.“They work at piece rates, and they are incredibly efficient,” Christopher said. “They make above our corporate minimum wage.”Gilroy may be the “Garlic Capital of the World,” but only 300 acres out of Christopher Ranch’s 5,500 acres in production in California are in Gilroy."Fresh garlic costs between 50 cents to $1 per pound to harvest, with the variance depending on different fields yields and whether it was harvested organically or not," Christopher said. "From there, depending on the end product, costs will vary wildly whether we sell it as fresh garlic, peeled garlic, roasted garlic or pureed garlic."This year Christopher Ranch celebrated the Gilroy Garlic Festival simultaneously with one of its most robust harvests to date, over 100 million pounds. This bumper crop was due in part to increased water and labor availability. Christopher Ranch will only sell American garlic, foregoing imports from Argentina and Spain.“We have absolutely not, never, used Chinese garlic, past, present or future,” Christopher said. “We take pride in our integrity. We’re not a faceless company. We’re a 62-year family farm that has had success."Donating money and product to the Garlic Festival has been a long-term effort by Christopher Ranch and the Christopher family. It's also a show of gratitude for the support that Gilroy has shown Christopher Ranch."Christopher Ranch and the Christopher family donated approximately $200,000 to the Gilroy Garlic Festival this year, with about half of those funds going to sponsoring celebrity chefs," Christopher said. "About $20,000 was donated in the form of scholarships for the Gilroy Garlic Queen competition."Christopher Ranch has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in new software to track mentions of Christopher Ranch on social media, and Ken Christopher has committed himself to answer emails or requests for tours of the plant.

Youth conference on race and social justice set for Sept. 22

A Youth Conference on Race and Social Justice catering to teens ages 13-18 is scheduled from 10:30am to 5pm Sept. 22 at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center (17000 Monterey St.).

County, cities partner for animal shelter services

Santa Clara County and Morgan Hill have partnered to provide shelter for dogs, cats and other domestic pets, including horses and other large animals, for Morgan Hill residents.

Volunteers sought for Coastal Cleanup Day Sept. 15

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is one of several agencies involved in the 2018 Coastal Cleanup Day efforts and is in need of 1,500 volunteers of all ages to help get the job done.

Local students shop at Fit For Fall clothing drive

Local elementary school students were able to “shop til they drop” at the Edward “Boss” Prado Foundation’s Fifth Annual Back-to-School Fit For Fall clothing drive and backpack giveaway event Aug. 25.

Circus Vargas coming to MH

The circus is coming to town.

Fatal accident causes severe delays

A traffic accident on U.S. 101 in Gilroy resulted in the death of a 57-year-old man and injuries to three others in heavy morning commuter traffic on Monday, Aug. 13.The three-vehicle accident occurred at 7:55am on U.S. 101 northbound, just south of the Old Monterey Road exit and the intersection of Highway 25, according to Officer Chris Miceli of the California Highway Patrol. As of Monday evening, authorities had not released the identity of the man who died in the collision.A 2012 Ford van driven by a 33-year-old Castroville man was traveling north on the freeway, just south of Old Monterey Road at an unknown rate of speed, according to police. As the van approached the rear of a 2018 Peterbilt semi-truck, driven by a 59-year-old Salinas man, the van driver apparently failed to notice the slower, larger vehicle ahead.The right front of the Ford van collided with the left rear of the Peterbilt’s trailer, authorities said. The force of this impact caused the van to travel into the adjacent northbound lane. The van then collided with a 2005 Ford Explorer, driven by a 35-year-old Salinas man.When the van struck the semi-truck, the van’s right front passenger suffered fatal injuries, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.The driver and another passenger of the Ford van—a 34-year-old Castroville man—were transported to San Jose Regional Hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the semi-truck was transported to the same hospital, also with minor injuries.The driver of the Ford Explorer was not injured, according to police.Neither alcohol or drugs are suspected in the collision, according to authorities.U.S. 101 northbound was closed in both directions for about two hours due to the collision and investigation, backing up traffic in both directions for several miles. The accident also snarled the morning commuter traffic along 156 from as far away as Watsonville to Hollister, and stalled commuter traffic on Highway 25 north of Hollister.Anyone who witnessed the Aug. 13 collision can contact CHP Officer Brandon Dias at (408) 848-2324.

Families enjoy National Night Out in Morgan Hill

Morgan Hill Police was one of many public safety agencies nationwide that participated in the National Night Out Aug. 7. Also present at the local event, which took place on Depot Street in the city’s downtown, were the Morgan Hill Fire Department, Santa Clara County Fire Department, South County Fire District, CalFire and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

State bans outdoor burning in Santa Clara County

As of Aug. 8, all outdoor burning is banned in the South Bay area, including all of Santa Clara County.The burn ban was announced by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire). The ban includes all burning in the State Responsibility Areas within Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, plus the western portions of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.The restrictions also affect the use of campfires, stoves and smoking materials in these areas. The ban will remain in effect until CalFire announces otherwise.Starting immediately, the following restrictions are in effect:• No open fires, campfires or charcoal fires will be permitted;• Lanterns and portable stoves using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel and propane or gas fire pits will be permitted;• Visitors to campgrounds must clear all flammable material for 10 feet in all directions from their camp stove, have a shovel available and ensure that a responsible person attends the stove at all times during use;• Smoking is prohibited, except within an enclosed vehicle, building or designated campfire use site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or clear of all flammable material.The burn ban was announced as more than 13,000 firefighters are on the front lines of 12 large wildfires across the state. As of Aug. 9, these fires have burned nearly 667,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 structures, according to CalFire.

Air quality worsens

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is extending an air quality advisory through Thursday, August 9, in the Bay Area, including South County and northern San Benito County. Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy and Hollister early Wednesday, Aug.8, began experiencing brown, hazy skies, the smoke impacts from the Mendocino Complex  Fire and other wildfires.Starting Tuesday afternoon and continuing into Wednesday, smoke impacts became more widespread and at ground level at times. Due to active wildfires and changing wind patterns, air quality throughout the Bay Area is likely to be impacted through most of the week.A regional Spare the Air Alert was called, because air quality exceeded federal standards. The Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring air quality every 20 minutes. Updates are posted at https://airnow.gov.If the smell of smoke is present, it is important that Bay Area residents protect their health by avoiding exposure. If possible, stay inside with windows and doors closed until smoke levels subside. Set air-conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside.Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a scratchy throat and irritated sinuses. Elevated particulate matter in the air can trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema or COPD.Elderly persons, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels and should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.