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Kevin Merrill: Working together to vaccinate farmworkers
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On the Farm

Kevin Merrill: Working together to vaccinate farmworkers

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Kevin Merrill: Graduating into a different future

Kevin Merrill

After a few days of summerlike temperatures of near 90 degrees, I woke up this morning, Holy Saturday, to fog and much cooler temperatures outside. As usual I made some coffee and took advantage of the early morning quiet of the house.

I purposely left the TV off as I really didn’t want to hear about political bickering or commentary form so-called experts on todays news items. Mom and the kids were still asleep, and I took a moment to thank God for all of our blessings, including keeping us safe from COVID-19.

I thought of how much the COVID-19 outbreak changed our lives over the last year. Usually at the end of pruning we have a BBQ lunch for the crews to show our appreciation for their hard work over the past several months. This year I decided to have a drive through fish fry for them on Good Friday. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of foremen who are excellent chefs, and who have their own secret batter for frying the fish, better than any restaurant I’ve been to.

So, our shop was turned into a fish fry kitchen and by noon the plates with the tasty fish, rice and beans were ready to hand out to the crew as they drove by in their cars, heading home for the rest of the day to observe and celebrate Good Friday.

Through the hard work of our office staff and foreman most of our crew members have received the vaccine for COVID-19. It was accomplished mostly by utilizing word of mouth tips on which organization website offered the vaccine.

It took our foreman several days of monitoring their iPads and working with our employees to set up appointment times at Allan Hancock College over the weekends to get it done. It has not been a coordinated effort for farmworkers here in Santa Barbara County like other counties throughout the state. I will say that the Grower Shipper office in Santa Maria has been trying to set a program up along with a group known as CAUSE, who got 200 Mixtec-speaking farmworkers vaccinated early on.

I understand the county focused their vaccines on older folks and people at high risk early on. There are several examples around the state where county government partnered with local organizations, businesses and health providers to coordinate a plan to get the vaccines out.

In Fresno County, National Raisin Packers vaccinated over 1,000 of their employees at their site over a 3-day period, working with county government and local health experts. The same type of effort is being done in Tulare, Sacramento, Sonoma and Monterey counties, and our neighbors in San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

I know the folks at Santa Barbara County Health have worked tirelessly to provide COVID-19 vaccines as they receive them. Growers and ag advocate organizations like the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, California Strawberry Commission and Grower Shipper are all ready to help coordinate getting the folks who provide our food vaccinated in a coordinated effort, similar to other areas of our state, together we can get this done.

I hope you all enjoyed a blessed Easter, stay safe and healthy.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com

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