The California Ag Community Has Risen to the Occasion

Ian LeMay

CFFA President

At the California Fresh Fruit Association, we understand the importance of community. Supporting one another is what we do, in the best, but especially in the toughest of times. A year into a pandemic that has uprooted daily life and tested the resolve of everyone, I feel it is important that we reflect on the many ways our agricultural community has risen to the occasion to support each other, the unspoken sacrifices so many have made and the work that still needs to be done as we continue to push towards a post-pandemic future.

Even before the increased risks to food and agricultural workers became evident, protecting the health and safety of our farm employees has always been our number one priority. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CFFA partnered with organizations like the California Farmworker Foundation (CFF) to provide personal protective equipment to those who needed it most. Together, we distributed hundreds of thousands of N-95 and single-use surgical masks to agricultural employees across the State of California. CFFA and CFF also partnered with the California Table Grape Commission to launch “Safety Starts with You,” a multi-channel public health education campaign that included Spanish-language radio messages providing farm workers with information about how to stay safe during the pandemic.

Being there for our community has meant more than just addressing the direct impacts to the physical health of our workers. That is why we are proud to have supported the COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Fund, which provided farm employees with emergency rental assistance and financial resources to pay utilities and other basic-need expenses.

Despite all the work that has been done, too many have known the sorrow of mourning lost family members, friends, and colleagues that were taken from us too soon. It is in their honor that we look to the future with a renewed determination to help our community flourish.
That is why from the moment vaccines were first made available to essential workers, we have fought to ensure the women and men who protect the integrity of our food supply receive the prioritization they deserve. CFFA members have already vaccinated tens of thousands of employees in close partnership with the state, counties, and local community-based organizations. CFFA will continue to push for even greater access to vaccines to protect our workers.

This has not been an easy year for our members, our employees, or our industry. But as the light at the end of the tunnel approaches, we should all take a moment to reflect on all we have accomplished during these turbulent times. As our industry has always done, we met the moment and continued to provide the needed food and fiber for the world. I am confident that through the remaining challenges we will continue the same way we have weathered the storm thus far – together.