farmworkers

First Lady Jill Biden spent time in Delano Wednesday to honor civil rights leader and farm labor activist Cesar Chavez. She was there to take part in a Day of Action, alongside the Cesar Chavez Foundation, the United Farm Workers and the Kern County Latino COVID-19 Task Force. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are facing limited access to resources during the pandemic, according to the second phase of the COVID-19 Farmworker Study funded by the California Institute of Rural Studies. 

Community organizers, like Erica Fernandez Zamora, conducted 63 in-depth interviews with farmworkers across the state. Most are struggling financially. 

 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Restaurants have had to ride the wave of pandemic shutdowns and reopenings for the past ten months. We look at how one business in Madera is surviving and what’s happening to its employees.

 

Plus, when a local newspaper closes shop, how does that affect voting behaviors and political corruption? 

 

And we’ve got another segment of StoryCorps San Joaquin. A grandson remembers his  pioneering grandmother who spent her summers living and working in a fire lookout station.

In a surprise move this week, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted shelter-in-place orders for our part of the state, even as San Joaquin Valley residents continue to die of COVID-19 by the hundreds each week. The decision came as a surprise to health officials in at least Fresno County, who said they appreciate that case numbers are finally trending in the right direction but warned against reckless behavior that could drive them back up again.

Madi Bolanos / Valley Public Radio

 

Advocates say meeting farmworkers at their workplace to distribute vaccines is the best way to ensure all farmworkers get the vaccine. Fresno County began it’s soft rollout of vaccines to farmworkers on Monday, with 50 ag workers receiving their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at their workplace, Pappas Family Farm in Mendota. 

In addition to onsite workplace vaccine centers, County officials said in a press conference at the site, the local health department is working with rural clinics to distribute the vaccines. 

 

 

Employees of Pappas Family Farms in Mendota received their first round of COVID-19 vaccines Monday.  

Melesio Medina is one of 50 employees who received the vaccine. He’s worked as a mechanic at Pappa’s for five years. Medina said the vaccine means he can continue to provide for his family. 

“It’s a great opportunity. There's people out there that were fighting for it,” Medina said. “They want it, so I’m just grateful I gotta take it.” 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Tulare County is still in phase 1A of its vaccine distribution, but the county’s Health and Human Services Department is already working with other organizations on vaccine distribution for farmworkers. 

Carrie Monteiro, a spokesperson for the department, says the county wants to be prepared to vaccinate farmworkers when phase 1B starts. That’s why, in collaboration with the Community Care Coalition, it’s asking farm and agriculture employers to respond to a survey. 

 

Jackie Botts, Kate Cimini and Georgia Gee

In an effort to assist farmworkers who test positive for COVID-19, California launched the Housing for the Harvest program. It provides free hotel rooms so farmworkers can self-isolate and not infect family members. But a recent investigation found that of the 800,000 farmworkers in California, only around 80 have utilized the program since it was announced in July.

Vivian Ho and Monica Velez

This week, The Guardian published the first in a series of reports on why COVID-19 cases have surged in the Central Valley. Valley Public Radio Host Kathleen Schock spoke with reporter Vivian Ho about her investigation into how the virus spread among agricultural workers. Also joining the conversation is UC Merced Associate Professor of Sociology Edward Flores, who recently co-published a study on the connection between low-wage employment and the coronavirus.

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. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We’ll hear firsthand accounts of how COVID-19 has impacted conditions for those working in the fields.

We also talk to a reporter who spent three weeks in Kern County’s corner of the Mojave Desert. Her new podcast investigates false promises of wealth in California City. 

And, we discuss what will happen to Valley renters out of work because of COVID-19 and potentially facing homelessness when the state’s eviction moratorium is lifted.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above. 

Lisa Blecker, Kristen Beall Watson and Laura Moreno

COVID-19 is disproportionately hurting vulnerable communities like seniors, ag workers and the homeless. To learn about efforts to protect these at-risk populations, FM89's Kathleen Schock spoke with Lisa Blecker, pesticide safety education program coordinator for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Laura Moreno, chair of the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, and Kristen Beall Watson, CEO of the Kern Community Foundation.

Ezra David Romero / KVPR

The spread of COVID-19 is forcing many people to work from home, but for farmworkers that’s not an option.  

Take Eucebia and Alejandro; the couple asked to go by their first names only. They have three kids and no savings. In the past two weeks, they’ve been asked to leave two picking jobs, first in almonds, then in grapes. The second job at Fowler Packing only lasted two days before the contractor told them to leave.

“She said that there wasn't going to be any work, that everything had been canceled,” Eucebia said. 

Ezra David Romero / KVPR

Legislation proposed Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to give undocumented farmworkers more protections.  The Farm Workforce Modernization Act will provide undocumented workers a path to legal residency, and for those who want it, citizenship. 

 

Blue River Technology

Let’s face it farmers are usually slow to change their practices for a couple reasons. Change usually comes with a high price tag – a new tractor can cost a half million dollars. And farmers want to minimize risk by only investing in things that have been successfully tested and in the end don’t reduce profits. But robots are slowly changing that perspective.

Voice of Witness

A new book aims to document the stories of valley farmworkers through oral histories. It's the project of editor and independent journalist Gabriel Thompson, and features interviews with dozens of people who have spent their lives working in the fields of California. The book is called "Chasing The Harvest" and is published by the group Voice of Witness. Thompson joined us on Valley Edition to talk about his experiencing collecting the stories that make up the book.

MAGGIE STARBARD / NPR

Dan Charles reports on agriculture for NPR. Over the past year he reported a series on farmworkers across the country. Recently he wrote a  post on NPR's food blog The Salt titled "Inside The Lives Of Farmworkers: Top 5 Lessons I Learned On The Ground." In this interview Valley Edition Host Joe Moore interviews Charles about this list and his reporting. 

Diana Aguilera

Working outside in the heat is something many people in the Central Valley have to do on a daily basis. The hot weather is a concern especially for those who work in the valley’s fields. From 2000 to 2012 nearly 7,000 people were hospitalized in California for heat related illnesses and around 600 died. California now has the toughest workplace regulations when it comes to heat but there’s still a problem- accurately measuring internal body temperature.

It’s a typical Sunday in the town of Mendota, west of Fresno. Here, in the cantaloupe capital of the world, the majority of residents are farmworkers. As they unwind from working all day the Westside pool hall starts filling up. 

City councilmember Joseph Riofrio owns the pool hall. This place serves as a distraction and entertainment for many men farmworkers, who are often far away from family. But Riofrio says the isolation some people feel opens the door for another type of business.

Vasilios Sfinarolakis VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

A new study suggests that the Central Valley’s extreme heat is linked with increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

A group of scientists say that in recent decades, heat waves in the Central Valley are more severe due to higher humidity and warmer night temperatures.

Roberto Mera with the Union of Concerned Scientists led the study.

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