Immigrant farmers get guidance during COVID-19 crisis
When Californians began falling ill with COVID-19, restaurants and other businesses closed and regulations seemed to change daily. Small-scale immigrant farmers needed information translated while quickly finding new buyers for their perishable produce.
University of California Cooperative Extension contacted immigrant farmers, alerting them to shelter-in-place rules and delivering COVID-19 safety information in their native languages – Chinese, Spanish or Hmong. Because many of the small-scale farmers had trouble obtaining personal protective equipment and supplies, Extension gave them COVID-19 kits containing reusable masks, hand sanitizer, bilingual Cal OSHA guidelines for employers regarding COVID-19, and a resources sheet listing where to buy the enclosed items. They distributed COVID-19 kits to 200 Bay Area farmers and 250 small farmers in Fresno County and helped them comply with worker safety protocols on their farms. “The masks and wipes were helpful in helping us protect ourselves and others,” said one farmer.
For Hmong and Mien farmers selling at farmers markets and roadside stands, the team made signs illustrating social distancing and other safety requirements that farmers could display. Farmers reported that the signs were effective. “Posting the signs helped a lot, it kept customers from touching produce and they wore masks,” a farmer said. Another said, “Customers were able to read the signs ahead, and understand what needed to be done and was expected at the fruit stand. While the customers were waiting in a single-file line, they were all six feet apart.”
Extension arranged for Fresno Farm Bridge to buy fresh produce from Southeast Asian and other minority farmers to distribute to seniors and struggling families. To help the offset financial losses from unsold specialty crops, Extension also helped Asian and Latino farmers complete English-language disaster aid applications.