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San Joaquin Valley Farm Workers Describe Working Conditions And Fears During Pandemic

Celestino Mendoza-Soto picking garlic in Wasco, California.

Farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley are facing higher risks of contracting COVID-19 compared to non-agricultural industries, according to a new farmworkers study. That’s on top of dealing with extreme heat and pesticide exposure. 

Javier Vasquez, Hermelinda Benitez, Celestino Mendoza-Soto and Delfino commute from Madera to  Wasco, California to pick garlic for three dollars a bucket. They say it's a tough job that's not cut out for everyone, but without documentation it's the only option for many. Listen to the audio postcard above to hear them describe what it’s like to perform this essential work during a pandemic.

Madi Bolanos covered immigration and underserved communities for KVPR from 2020-2022. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border.
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