Farmworker Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Farmworkers are essential to our lives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, their work hasn’t stopped. In the latest episode of CALS’ Farms, Food and You podcast, guests share insights on the risks these workers face as they produce the food that’ll end up on our plates in coming weeks and months and on what NC State Extension, its partners and other state agencies are doing to help lower those risks
A native of Mexico, Pedro Zuñiga Martinez has come to North Carolina as a farmworker for 33 years. For the past five years, he’s worked at Ann Angus Farm in Rocky Mount, which produces sweet potatoes, corn, soybeans and cattle.
Beth Rodman is bureau chief for agricultural safety and health with the N.C. Department of Labor, which is responsible for inspecting migrant farmworker housing and enforcing the Migrant Housing Act of North Carolina and occupational safety and health standards applicable to agricultural operations, including field sanitation.
Cintia Aguilar is a native of Costa Rica with a psychology background. She has worked with and for farmworkers throughout her career. She serves as Latino programs manager with NC State Extension, NC State University’s largest outreach program.
Robin Tutor-Marcom is director of the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute and an East Carolina University faculty member. She earned her doctorate in agricultural and extension education from NC State University.
Susan Jakes is principal investigator with NC State Extension’s grant-funded Farmworker Health and Safety Education Program. She also serves as the organization’s associate state program leader for community and rural development.
Roberto Rosales is an NC State Extension farmworker health and safety educator serving Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe counties. He was introduced to farm work as a child, when his parents traveled the East Coast as migrant farmworkers.
Blake Brown is Hugh C. Kiger Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University. An expert in agricultural policy analysis, Brown has served as a senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Executive Office of the U.S. President.
Shane Varnell owns V&V Farms in Rocky Mount, which produces tobacco, cotton, soybeans, wheat, corn, sweet potatoes and beef cattle. He holds a degree in agricultural business management from NC State’s Agricultural Institute, and his son is now a junior at the university.
As a farm labor contractor, Neyre Barajas recruits, trains, manages and transports farmworkers to harvest citrus in Florida and then sweet potatoes in North Carolina. Originally from Mexico, Barajas has worked in agriculture since she was 9.
Resources for More Information
- COVID-19 Resources for Farmers and Farmworkers (NC State Extension)
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (N.C. Department of Labor)
- Agriculture Workers and Employers: Interim Guidance (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Labor)
- North Carolina Farmworker Health Program (N.C. Department of Health and Human Services)