By Matt Winkel, Regional Director for Proteus, Inc., Iowa
Summer in the Midwest is quickly approaching, which means the planting season will soon be here. Farmers are already preparing for the season ahead and looking forward to getting all of their crops in the ground. Migrant and seasonal farm working families are also in the process of preparing for the season.
These preparations can vary drastically from one family to the next. While some families travel together, many do not. Thousands of farmworkers leave their families for months at a time to follow the work from field to field. These workers leave the comforts of their own home to arrive in a location they may be completely unfamiliar with. Throughout this time farmworkers search for unity within their own crews. Farm working crews look out for each other, oftentimes sharing supplies and resources when necessary. But there are times when the need for unity with the surrounding community is necessary. Workers often arrive with little to no money until the work begins and they get paid.
So what can we do as community members to make sure that farmworkers are welcomed into our neighborhoods? These workers may have barriers that we have not even considered including language and access to reliable transportation. One of the most helpful and easy steps that we can take is to share the information that we have. Let the crew know if there is a food pantry nearby. This can be a huge help for workers trying to get through to the first paycheck. You could also start a food drive within your business or community in order to provide some much-needed necessities. Dropping off bottled water can also be a simple thing to do.
Finding proper medical care is a service that can be difficult in rural areas. Should an unforeseen medical issue arise, it is good for the workers to know where they can receive the appropriate care. In Iowa, we are fortunate to have Proteus who can supply mobile health clinics to workers around the state. This is not a luxury that everyone has. Providing a list of emergency numbers and locations of free/sliding fee clinics can help workers focus on taking care of themselves. If needed, provide directions to the nearest emergency room.
Finally, we can all take a moment to be thankful for all that the farmworkers bring to our communities. These things can be as simple as appreciating the produce that we all enjoy, many times picked and packed by farmworkers. In the heat of the summer remember that we still have workers in the fields, sometimes until dark. Kindness and compassion can do much more than we often realize. Show these hardworking individuals that, as a community, we can come together and help them find the unity they have left behind.