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.

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.

Francisco Martinez / KCBX

Strawberry field workers in San Luis Obispo County striked for a second day July 2, demanding better wages.

Workers are demanding West Coast Berry Farms pay them $14 hourly wages, $1.25 per strawberry box and $2 per unit of juice.

The strike was organized by the farm workers and received a publicity boost on Instagram from the Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project.

David Rodriguez/Bay City News Foundation

Eleazar Sosa, a vineyard manager in Greenfield, oversees a crew of about 20 who monitor the vines for disease, control irrigation and harvest the wine grapes in late summer. This year, he and his coworkers are also confronting a new challenge: the growing threat of coronavirus.

Doug McKnight/KAZU

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Part 2  

Over the next three months, tens of thousands of migrant farmworkers will converge on the Central Coast to do something deemed essential in the time of COVID-19, harvest our food. The speciality crops farmed locally, like strawberries and leafy greens, require a lot of hand labor. But the dramatic increase in population could trigger a surge in COVID-19 cases.


Over one hundred thousand people are now evacuated from the Thomas Fire, burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. But workers in the area’s agricultural fields stayed on the job, breathing in smoke and ash as they pick strawberry and celery crops.

Greta Mart/KCBX

An investigation continues this week into a suspected June 22 insecticide poisoning of 18 farmworkers in Salinas.

The Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office is conducting the investigation. The county’s assistant AG commissioner, Bob Roach, said Monday afternoon that all but one of the sickened workers returned to the job the following day.

Who burned down farmworker housing in Nipomo, California?

Apr 19, 2017
Randy Fuller/Latino USA

Latino USA recently reexamined the 2016 fire in Nipomo that destroyed farmworker housing under construction. 

New law phases in overtime pay for farmworkers

Dec 29, 2016
Dan Long/Flickr

A hotly contested law to phase in new overtime pay for farmworkers got lots of buzz when Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law earlier this year. That "phase in" won't begin until 2019 but one provision goes into effect on Sunday.

Central Coast farmworkers are invited to a town hall meeting Monday night in Santa Maria. Santa Barbara County supervisors Janet Wolf and Salud Carbajal are hosting the meeting, and they say the public workshop is intended to be a space for farmworkers to “air grievances” and describe living and working conditions in the area’s agricultural industry.

Geovanni Ximénez-García/KCBX News

California’s Central Coast is suffering from an ongoing farm worker shortage.

Santa Barbara County Planning Commission

An effort to help ease a shortage of farm workers on the Central Coast is underway in Santa Barbara County, as plans for a large housing project for temporary field workers are in the final stages. 

Tom Wilmer

  An ongoing push for improved working conditions in berry fields along the West Coast is set for ramp-up in the coming weeks.