VENTURA, Calif. -- While California is on a statewide lockdown, millions of farmworkers are out in the fields continuing to gather essential food for the public.
“Right now, what farmworkers are facing, in terms of the coronavirus, is they are not being provided the same human rights as the rest of the citizens of the United States,” said Irene De Barraicua, a spokeswoman for Lideres Campesinas. “One of those is access to health care.”
Lineres Campesinas is a statewide organization for female farmworkers. There are 14 chapters including in Ventura County. The organization is advocating for proper protection and having health professionals train farm workers on field safety.
“First and foremost, what we are seeing is a lack of proper education and sanitary guidelines,” said De Barraicua.
In Ventura County, the Farmworkers Resource Program is already working on providing safety information to nearly 43,000 farmworkers.
“We reach out to the community in different ways, with print, sending out flyers, sending out messages, and creating videos in different languages,” said Talia Barrera, who is with the Ventura County Farmworkers Resource Program.
Growers and farmers are adjusting to make sure they're social distancing.
“Our local growers have been able to adopt social distancing best practices, by working on every other bed if they are harvesting berries,” said Barrera. “And by allowing a longer lunch break.”
Lideres Campesinas organization sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday night listing the concerns for farmworkers.
“You know, they talk about these guidelines and the six feet apart and sometimes they have just been given a sheet saying how to go about it and no one follows it because you can’t,” said De Barraicua. “And a lot of times they are clumped in groups of 20, sometimes 60.”
In the meantime, the Ventura County Farmworkers Resource Program is helping out in any way it can.
“We have to understand, they do not have a choice,” said Barrera. “They have to work. They are essential employees and important employees.”
In addition, the Farmworker Resource Program, in collaboration with the Ag Commissioner, has created an email address for the Ag Community to address questions related to COVID-19.