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Flooded farms leave workers scrambling to make ends meet

Latino nonprofit Celebration Nation is stepping in to fill the gap for Central Valley farmworkers who've found their hours cut after flooding has damaged many fields.
food distribution
Posted at 4:56 PM, Apr 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-10 23:09:07-04

MCFARLAND, Calif. (KERO — Farmworkers are vital to the agriculture industry, and 42 percent of California's farmworkers live and work in the Central Valley. As important as this work and these workers are to the county and the nation, low wages still make it difficult for many farmworkers to afford the very same food they help get onto dinner tables across the country.'

Add to this the last three months of wet weather in the area flooding many of the fields, leaving many farmworkers without a steady paycheck. This is why one national nonprofit, Celebration Nation, is working to lend a helping hand.

Celebration Nation focuses their food distributions to the farmworker community, and every second Saturday of the month, they host a food distribution event for farmworkers in McFarland.

Some workers walked to the food distribution in McFarland while many others waited in a long drive-through line that stretched well into the street. It is ironic that many of those picking up bags have spent hours picking those vegetables in the fields. The last three months of rain, however, have flooded many fields and made work impossible to find for some farmworkers.

Carmen Obeso, Celebration Nation volunteer and a farmworker herself, helps organize the Celebration Nation farmworker food distribution events in the Central Valley, and she says the weather has drastically changed their jobs, leaving some unable to work. According to Obeso, those who have been able to find work have only been able to bring in around $300 a week.

Obeso also says that all of this is happening while people still have to make rent and pay bills, and shares that many farmworkers are struggling to keep their homes after the recent storms.

Now that the weather has turned, Obeso says things are looking up, but it is going to take a while to recover. In the meantime, the food distributions are a lifeline for the approximately 300 farmworker families that showed up in McFarland.

One of those farmworkers is Alfredo Jaime, who, along with his wife, says this is the second time his family has come to the food distribution. Jaime says the last time they came to the food distribution, it helped them get by for a couple of weeks.

Other people who came to the food distribution were retired farmworkers with little means of income, as well as families with multiple kids who need to eat.

The effort is all done from the ground up with Celebration Nation organizers, who are all farmworkers. The volunteer have taken it upon themselves to fill the gaps they see in their communities, picking up other volunteers along the way who believe in their mission and want to give back.

Volunteers like Adulfa Barbosa. Barbosa started volunteering just this year, and shays it is important to help out the farmworkers who give so much to the community.

The work of Celebration Nation is powered by volunteers and donations. If you would like to help them give back to the farmworkers who feed the country, please visit the Celebration Nation donation page on their website.

IN-DEPTH: Study looks into what impacts farmworkers' health


According to a study on farmworker health by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center, farmworkers in California continue to struggle with health issues and making ends meet.

Nearly one-third to half of all agricultural workers in the United States live and work in California, according to the report, and around three quarters of those workers are undocumented.

Undocumented residents face a number of health issues specific to them, such as an inability to reliably access health care safely. The study also says that nearly 70 percent of farmworkers lack any kind of health insurance, whether that's due simply to an inability to pay, or to institutional discrimination on the part of providers.