Beyond the Furrows

Francisco Martinez

Within the first few moments of talking to Amancio, his ideas of what makes farmworkers so important — and what they do to complete their necessary work — come out.

Francisco Martinez

Maria will tell you without hesitation: she never thought she would be here right now.

Francisco Martinez

Reina Mendoza is 50 years old, and has been in the United States for the last 21 years. She’s called Santa Maria home for the last nine years.

Mendoza is a single mother with five children: four boys in their early-to-mid 20s and one teenage daughter. But life as a farmworker, Mendoza said, made it initially difficult to enjoy motherhood.

Francisco Martinez

It’s been a while — a month and a half, actually — since I talked to Francis Salvador in person.

U.S. Department of Labor

Before exploring the nitty gritty of farm labor contractors, there’s a big picture to acknowledge first.

Courtesy of California Department of Pesticide Regulation

It’s a warm day in Santa Maria, as Santiago Fanvian — who’s called Santa Maria home for the last 17 years — is at a strip mall with his two sons, both of them wearing soccer jerseys.

He’s a farmworker, but he has a different job from the farmworkers heard from on “Beyond the Furrows:” he sprays pesticides on grapes.

He said he’s conscientious about the potential effects of pesticides, and protects himself when he’s at work.

Dr. Van Do-Reynoso says she knows vaccinating everyone possible is important to ending the pandemic. But as Santa Barbara County's public health director, she knows not everyone in the county has equal access to the vaccines, and some are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

Francisco Martinez

In the parts of Santa Maria where green plants and brown soil are abundant, there's a massive truck beaming with LED displays; it's parked on the side of the road. The truck is blasting messages in English, Spanish, and Mixteco.

Close to the truck, Fernando Martinez — megaphone in hand — stands far enough away from the fields so he's not trespassing, but close enough to farmworkers so they can hear him.

Francisco Martinez / KCBX

Inside one of Guadalupe's grocery stores, like La Estrella, you're bound to see a farmworker.

“Yeah, they're just a lot of hardworking people and — tremendous respect to them,” said Murad Alamari. “They've been doing it for a lot of years and they have great character. There's a lot of character in Guadalupe.”

Francisco Martinez | KCBX

During the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers helped the rest of us keep some semblance of order during the initial wave of uncertainty.

And farmworkers are included in that workforce; they're how we get our food on the table.

So when the pandemic hit, Andrea Rojas saw an increase in calls from agricultural workers to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. She knew that increase made sense, because calls from other industries like hospitality and restaurants went down, while there was sustained demand for farmworkers.

Courtesy of Cristina Macedo

Santa Barbara County had just over 32,000 migratory and seasonal agricultural workers in 2017 — the most recent year for data — according to estimates from the National Center for Farmworker Health.

And the National Center for Farmworker Health lists four health centers as Migrant Health Centers in four Santa Barbara County locations: Guadalupe, Santa Maria, New Cuyama and Los Alamos. But not everyone can make it out to these locations to get the treatment they need, or even have the time to get there.

The Women and Infants Mobile Health, or WIMH, is attempting to address that barrier.

Francisco Martinez | KCBX

To tell the story of farmworkers in this country, let alone the Central Coast, Cesar Chavez needs to be mentioned.

In a 1984 speech to the Commonwealth Club of California, Chavez outlined the mission of his work.

"All my life, I have been driven by one dream, one goal, one vision: to overthrow a farm labor system in this nation that treats farm workers as if they were not important human beings," Chavez said.

His work has been recognized in California with a state holiday in his honor.