Oklahoma executive builds career helping farm workers retrain for better-paying jobs
Jorge Martinez, a west Texas native who grew up as a migrant agricultural worker, now heads an Oklahoma nonprofit that annually helps some 300 state farm workers retrain and find more stable, higher-wage jobs.
Success stories on ORO Development Corp.'s website tell of how the Oklahoma City-based nonprofit organization has changed the lives of Oklahoma farm workers who retrained and found higher-
Executive Director Jorge Martinez insists the 41-year job training organization — formerly known as Oklahoma Rural Opportunities — is not anti-
Martinez knows their plight all too well. As a boy, he worked alongside his mother, tending and picking cotton and other crops. Later, he scrapped for whatever jobs he could find until training with ORO where he's built a
Former manager of ORO's Altus office, Martinez took ORO's helm two and a half years ago. Among other duties, he writes proposals for some of the $1.3 million the organization is awarded annually by the federal labor department, and oversees a staff of nine: five in its offices at 909 S Meridian Ave. and case managers in Altus, Clinton, Muskogee and Miami field offices.
ORO annually helps 250 to 350 workers retrain and find work, even offering temporary assistance with housing and utility costs to some.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens or authorized to work in the U.S. and show that agricultural work accounts for at least 50 percent of their incomes for 12 consecutive months of the past 24. In Oklahoma, there are an estimated 15,000 eligible farm workers, Martinez said.
Martinez, 56, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to share his own success story. This is an edited transcript:
A: Until I was 8, I lived with my grandparents, my mom and her brothers and sisters. My mom was 18 when she had me; I never knew my father. I was born in Texas, in Mission, where my mother was also born and grew up.
Her father, my grand
A: My mom married, and my stepfather thought it would be a good idea to go along with two other couples to work the sugar beet and cucumber harvests in Minnesota and Wisconsin. With the money we made, we bought an old Plymouth to drive back, but broke down outside Altus en route to south Texas.
Business Photo Galleriesview all
- 11190Oklahoma tornadoes: Plaza Towers Elementary School teacher shoved students into bathroom as wall collapsed
- 11015Oklahoma tornadoes: Cost, custom keep basements scarce
- 9873Finding Addyson – One family's struggle in the Moore tornado
- 8372Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 4481Downtown wish list includes Super Target
- 4243Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill to join Blake Shelton at "Healing in the Heartland" Oklahoma tornado benefit
- 4027OU softball: Sooners inspired by Casey Angle, run-rule Texas A&M