Episode 133: Covid-19 Vaccines for Agriculture's Essential Workforce

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Episode 133 Dante Galeazzi Quote

“Our growers [in Texas] were really in the thick of their season when we had to adjust,” says Dante Galeazzi, where Christopher Valadez’s agricultural workers (in California) were just getting started on their season when the pandemic hit. 

No one could have expected or been prepared enough for the Covid-19 outbreak this year. Even though we saw store shelves empty of toilet paper, bread, and boxed goods, in most areas around the country produce remained readily available. Our frontline workers and first responders have worked hard to ensure we remain as safe as possible, and our agricultural workers, farmers and produce industry have worked just as hard to make sure safe, fresh, healthy food has kept America fed during this time.

“It is vital to maintain the food that Americans need to eat.” – Dante Galeazzi (11:16-11:20)

As soon as the pandemic hit, Christopher’s Grower-Shipper Association partnered with others in the agricultural industry and with the county government to put together a best practices guide that was made publicly available. They needed to get a baseline of safety measures out there fast that made sense for everyone on an operational level, whether it was a farmer, a transportation unit, an employee housing site, or other integral part of the produce industry operation chain. The guidelines were based on what the CDC, local and state government announced.

In a lot of regions where agriculture makes up one-third or more of the job market, crowded and congested personal living situations became an issue fast. Most of these areas have a lack of available and affordable housing, which disproportionately affects many people that work in agriculture. Individuals were going home to many others where the spread of the virus (or illnesses in general) was being exacerbated.

The agriculture industry knew they needed to remedy this fast. Free of charge to farmers and ag workers, the companies that give you your most favorite food brands offered nursing, housing and feeding to help get people out of congested environments. Individuals that contracted the virus were put in this housing (for free) for a two week quarantine period, were provided with all of their medical needs and basic necessities, to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

These are efforts from the agricultural industry no one has talked about, or what would have happened if the people of this industry weren’t able to contain the spread of the virus within the produce supply chain. Growers and shippers were some of the first companies to immediately set up whatever they could, whether it was hand sanitizer stations, wood or plastic partitions, sanitized uniforms, shoes, and gloves, or even shower curtains to prevent the spread of Covid. There’s even packing houses that are implementing blood oxygenation tests!

“We’ve got to get our workforce vaccinated so they can keep putting food on American’s tables.” – Dante Galeazzi (16:08-16:11)

Now that we’re seeing vaccine trials go through and Covid-19 vaccines being given to our first responders and medical workers, it’s time to talk about who will be next in line. These people are extremely important to our society, and after others who are at high risk for the virus, such as the elderly, farmers and food workers should be thought of as top priority for Covid-19 vaccines. Something that’s critical in thinking about this, however, is partnering with farmers and local clinics to administer Covid-19 vaccines to the agriculture population.

Episode 133 Christopher Valadez Quote

Dante and Christopher both advocate for the use of the employer when administering vaccines to farmers and agricultural workers because those individuals already have a built-in trust with them versus government officials where they might be fearful, lack trust or have political views getting in the way of their safety (and the safety of our country). Both associations are doing what they can to advocate for agricultural workers to be next in line for Covid-19 vaccines by speaking to the state and federal government.

What’s the risk if this doesn’t happen? If more ag workers become sick with the virus and aren’t able to work, or risk spreading it to our vital food sources, the demand for food will stay high, but the supply will decrease, meaning prices will go up. With the fragile state of our economy right now, that’s the last thing our country needs. Hopefully, we continue to make progress with the virus and the agricultural industry is seen as a priority to receive vaccination next.

How to get involved

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Episode 133 Covid-19 Vaccines Instagram Card

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Author: Lori Taylor

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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