'While You Were Sleeping': 'Harvest time' at produce distributor happens in middle of night

Crews round up fruits, vegetables for shipping across state

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter, Tim Stewart - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - With a clipboard in hand, Edward Castillo begins rounding up an early morning harvest inside the warehouse of River City Produce.

The fresh fruits and vegetables that he is gathering up, though, are not to make a meal for himself.

Instead he, as a shipping supervisor, will make sure they’re loaded onto trucks outside the building, located southwest of downtown San Antonio, and sent to restaurants and retailers all across the state.

“Our shift loads maybe anywhere from five to 10 trucks,” he said. “We wake up early, go to work early but then we get off early. So we have the rest of the day to do whatever we have to do.”

Castillo has worked for River City the past eleven years.

Only a portion of that has been spent working overnights, a shift that, for him, begins at 3 a.m.

“Once you look out the window or out the doors there, you look and it's already daylight. So you don't even know if it's raining out there or if it's cold,” he said, in regards to the early hours.

Workers say it can be difficult to keep track of the time inside the building which has very few windows.

Because a section of it also is kept below 40 degrees in order to maintain food freshness, it also can be tough to keep track of the seasons.

The room has the crispness of a winter day, all year long.

Mike Guajardo, the company’s transportation manager, says the cool air also keeps workers alert and on their toes.

The overnight hours can be grueling, but Guajardo said he enjoys each day on the job.

“It's produce. Everybody eats it. We love it,” he said. “It's the feeling of coming in and making sure everyone that we actually deliver to is actually getting the best product.”

Those products come from all across the country, as well as across the nation’s borders.

Boxes stacked high inside the warehouse showed there were apples from Washington, oranges from Florida, potatoes from Idaho and avocados from Mexico, to name a few.

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