Jun 9, 2021
Pandemic found ag interests identifying solutions to create opportunities

During the pandemic, many realized the value of farmers, farm workers and the entire agricultural industry when food continued to reach consumers and shortages of fruits and vegetables never materialized.  The dedication of farmers and farm workers who worked diligently every day to grow, harvest, process and ship our crops came into greater focus.

At the Grower Shipper Association of Central California (GSA), assisting agricultural employers to support and protect workers from this virus on farms and at facilities became a priority of a magnitude we had never experienced before.  As the grandson of farm workers, I have an understanding of the importance of ensuring a safe and healthy work environment for those employees who depend on their job as we depend on them to keep food on our tables.

Christopher Valadez is president of the Grower Shipper Association of Central California.

Like many of my colleagues, my personal background served as motivation and inspiration to listen and understand the needs of ag employers and farm workers, to push past resistance to ensure needed programs moved forward, to overcome logistical hurdles, to find partners and collaborators who shared a desire to create ground-breaking and innovative protection systems.

The result is something all of us can be proud of – more than 65% of all ag workers are now vaccinated through GSA/Clinica de Salud mass clinics.  GSA’s quarantined housing program as well as expedited testing systems through Clinica de Salud remain in place. And, employers remain vigilant regarding on-site virus prevention measures and employee training.  Today, Monterey County enjoys among the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation.

The last year and half has shown the importance of joining together to explore different avenues and think creatively to find solutions.  While COVID prevention will continue to be a priority, I believe we can take the same solutions-based spirit and apply it to other areas affecting ag and impacting our communities on the Central Coast.

What can we do better to address affordable housing for farm workers?  How can we work to continually improve water quality and protect water supply?  What disease and pest control strategies will ensure yields and jobs aren’t negatively impacted due to crop losses?  Finally, what actions can lead to scientific breakthroughs that enhance the safety of our products for consumers?

These are difficult, multi-faceted issues.  But finding solutions would be high reward and advance families, food and farming in our communities, which is the mission of GSA.  Solutions will require a collaborative spirit, an optimistic outlook, innovative approaches and needed resources.  However, solutions are doable, possible and necessary to benefit and sustain our industry’s future and the jobs we provide.

My grandparents worked hard to advance their family’s future.  It wasn’t only about putting food on the table.  They wanted their children and grandchildren to have a better life by creating opportunity and that is what they did for me.

Creating opportunity is what I want to do too – for my own family and for this community so that we can all thrive.  Solutions that provide better housing, a reliable supply of water, safe food, a healthy work environment and a sustainable economy create comfort, security and opportunity.  I know firsthand the benefits of opportunity and I hope we can continue to work collaboratively with our numerous partners to advance solutions and improve our industry and our community.  Through opportunity creation, anything is possible.

Christopher Valadez is president of the Grower Shipper Association of Central California


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