Ephraim Camacho, a community worker with California Rural Legal Assistance, hands out brochures on the Affordable Care Act, heat illness, and wage theft at a farmworker health fair in Huron, Calif. (Jeremy Raff/KQED).
Editor’s note: California’s farmworkers face a litany of health hazards on the job: working bent over and carrying heavy loads of produce is hard on the back, hips, and knees; long hours in the sun can mean heat exhaustion, or worse. Employers don’t always provide the state-mandated access to shade, drinking water, and restrooms. The state’s regulatory agencies can’t keep a very close eye on such a large area.
To help fill this gap in enforcement, community health worker Ephrain Camacho drives the back roads with a pair of binoculars, pulling over wherever he sees a crew of workers to make sure they have the workplace protections they’re entitled to. As part of our community health series Vital Signs, we followed him to a health fair near Fresno to learn more about his work and about farmworker health.
By Ephraim Camacho
We call it ‘reading the land.’ You park on the side of the road and observe. The first thing we look for is the porta-potties, drinking water, and the shade.
If we see that there are not enough toilets, or that they’re lacking drinking water, or even drinking cups, we enter the field and talk to the employer about voluntary compliance. Continue reading
Farmworkers in Los Banos, CA. Many Central Valley farmworkers lack access to buy the produce they harvest. (Vinnee Tong/KQED)
By Alice Daniel, California Healthline
The town of Ceres, near Modesto, is like many small towns in the San Joaquin Valley. The farmworkers who pick the fruits, nuts and vegetables or work in the canneries often don’t have convenient ways to buy the produce they harvest. The lower-income side of town doesn’t have a grocery store, but there’s plenty of fast food. Residents say the tap water is cloudy and smells funny. At the convenience store, bottled soda is cheaper than bottled water.
It’s a story that can be told time and again in the small towns and unincorporated areas that dot the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley. It’s a story the advocates at the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Project, or CCROPP, are trying to rewrite.
“We are not your typical obesity prevention program,” said Brandie Banks-Bey, with CCROPP. “We focus our efforts on environmental and policy changes that support healthy eating.”
Partnerships Address Problems Regionally
CCROPP partners with community organizations and also trains local residents to become more civically engaged through programs such as Powerful People Building Leadership for Healthy Communities. Continue reading
By Dan Charles, NPR
(Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Advocates for farmworkers, especially those who grow America’s leafy greens and fresh vegetables, are pushing the government to do more to protect those workers from exposure to pesticides.
A 20-year-old regulation — the Worker Protection Standard — is supposed to prevent harmful pesticide exposures on the farm. But activist groups like Farmworker Justice say it falls short, and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on a new version.
Pesticides carry warning labels that spell out health risks and how workers should protect themselves — but those labels are usually in English.
A new report
from Farmworker Justice points out that under the current rules, farmworkers don’t get nearly as much information about hazardous chemicals they may encounter as, say, factory workers. (Industrial workers are covered by different regulations, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.)
And then there’s the barrier of language. Pesticides carry warning labels that spell out health risks and how workers should protect themselves — but those labels are usually in English. More than 80 percent of the workers in the “salad bowls” of Salinas, Calif., or Yuma, Ariz., are Hispanic. Many have difficulty communicating in English. Continue reading
By Lisa Morehouse
Dr. Minerva Perez-Lopez in the neonatal intensive care unit at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. While Perez-Lopez speaks both English and Spanish, she needs interpreter services for her indigenous Mexican patients. (Photo: Lisa Morehouse)
Angelica Isidro is only 4’9” tall, but she has a huge presence. I was almost exhausted by her energy as she took me on a tour of her Salinas Valley town of Greenfield. With about 15,000 residents Greenfield is surrounded by fields. On the edge of town, Isidro points to one that’s been prepared for lettuce crops. Across the street, there’s another for string beans and next to that, one for spinach.
Isidro has worked in the fields for twenty years. She says she and other farmworkers work 10 hour days at $8.50 or $9 an hour. She and her fellow farmworkers have specific health concerns.
“There are some dangers of working in the fields,” she says in Spanish through an interpreter. “People can get infections, like they might get fungus in their feet and also in their bodies. And also the pesticides. Sometimes we’ll be out in the fields and close by we’ll have the airplane that’s dusting the crops. That could potentially be dangerous.” Continue reading