Farmworker Families and the H2A Dilemma

Today, National Public Radio (NPR) aired the investigative report, “Guest Workers, Legal Yet Not Quite Free, Pick Florida’s Oranges,” in its show, Morning Edition.  This report is  part of a larger series by NPR, focusing on our farmworker families and the work they do providing America with a safe and secure source of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Large agribusinesses and small family farmers alike are increasingly making use of the H2A guest worker program.  For me, this development is unfortunate.  We are a country made stronger, better, and richer by new immigrants.  We are not a country of guest workers.  This year, for the first time ever, farmworker parents were unable to travel to participate in ECMHSP Policy Council meetings for fear of losing their jobs to H2A guest workers.  It should not be this way.  Today’s NPR story is enlightening and I encourage you to give it a listen.

I also hope you didn’t miss the earlier stories completed by NPR in the fall of 2015.  In September 2015, staff from the Field of Dreams Migrant Head Start Center operated by PathStone Corporation, a friend and delegate agency partner of ECMHSP, accompanied NPR reporter Dan Charles into the apple orchards of Adams County, Pennsylvania to interview migrant farmworker families.  The investigative radio report, “Inside the Life of An Apple Picker,” was aired nationally late October and featured ECMHSP parent Jose Martinez and his family.  In the story, Jose describes the challenges his family faces as they migrate from Florida to the apple harvest in Pennsylvania, and the stability ECMHSP has provided his children.

Just in time for the holidays, ECMHSP staff from the Faison and Fountain centers accompanied Dan Charles into North Carolina’s sweet potato harvest.  The story, “Behind Your Holiday Sweet Potato Dish, Hard Work In The Fields,” was aired on national radio at the end of November and featured ECMHSP parents Nabor Segundo and his wife Rosalia Morales.  Nabor invited listeners into his home, where he shared his family’s story, and into the fields as he performed the back-breaking work behind the Thanksgiving staple.

ECMHSP will continue to create media opportunities that will allow farmworker families to share their contributions to their communities, as well as the needs of their families across the East Coast.

A worker harvests grapefruit near Arcadia, Fla.

A worker harvests grapefruit near Arcadia, Fla. Photo Credit: Dan Charles/NPR

The Results are In! Announcing Our Blog Name

Last week, we sent out a poll to the ECMSHP community to help us choose a name for our ECMHSP Blog. With a majority of votes, we had a clear winner. ECMHSP’s blog will now be called: From Harvest to Head Start.

Our new blog name represents the services and support ECMHSP has been providing our farmworker families for more than thirty years: from the fields and orchards where they perform back-breaking work to feed America, to the Head Start centers where we provide their children with high-quality early childhood education. As stated in our mission, we are committed to preparing the children of migrant and seasonal farm workers for success, and our blog name reflects how our commitment goes beyond the classroom.

We want to thank everyone that voted for a name for the ECMSHP blog. We had great participation and feedback from ECMSHP staff, as well as members of the Board of Directors and Policy Council.

We especially want to thank those that submitted name suggestions. We will be saving these creative titles for future ECMSHP reports and projects. Here are a few of our favorite write-in votes:

  • The Daily Harvest
  • ¡Pequeños Éxitos!
  • Heads Up with Head Start

With the new name comes a new blog design, and many new exciting features. These steps are part of our efforts to amplify our voice on behalf of the farmworker families we serve.

Please follow our blog to stay up to date with the latest ECMHSP news and action alerts. If you have not done so already, check out our latest blog post by Dr. Jose S. Villa, CEO of ECMHSP. By sharing our posts with your network, you can help us raise awareness on the pressing issues in the farmworker community.

Stay connected! We have much more to come!

New Year. New Beginnings. New Blog.

Dear Reader,

2016 promises to be a year of growth and innovation at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project! (ECMHSP)

We started the year by launching our redesigned website, which provides a more user-friendly experience and features updated information about our organization. We want our community to look to our website as a destination point for early childhood education resources, success stories from our centers, and ways to get involved with our important work.

Today, we are taking the next step in amplifying our voice on behalf of the farmworker families we serve. It is most fitting to launch the ECMHSP blog on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

This weekend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be remembered and celebrated for his tireless work for civil rights and equality. Founder of the United Farm Workers and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez shared how during his first fast in 1968, Dr. King reminded him of how the farmworker struggle was his struggle too. Through a telegram sent to Chavez, King wrote: “Our separate struggles are really one. A struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity.”

The farmworker struggle continues today, and as part of the ECMHSP mission, it is our commitment to prepare the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers for success. In order to create meaningful change in the farmworker community, it is not enough for us to provide high-quality Head Start services to our families; we must also do our part to help amplify their voices. Through this blog, we will share news from our centers and the families we serve along the Eastern shore, as well as provide updates from the Nation’s Capital that affect the farmworker community and our services.

There is a number of ways you can show your support of the farmworker families we serve.

  1. Follow our blog to stay up to date with the latest ECMHSP news and action alerts. You can help us raise awareness on the pressing issues in the farmworker community.
  2. Volunteer your time or professional services. The value of volunteer services is an integral and necessary part of the program as well as the communities that we serve. Check for the ECMSHP center in your area here.
  3. Consider making a tax-deductible donation. Your gift offers immediate resources that are directed to the current needs of our families.

The leadership of civil rights leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., inspires us to advocate on behalf of and respond to the needs of our farmworker families, not just on this commemorative weekend, but daily through our labor of love. We are looking forward to see where this year of growth of innovation leads us, and we hope you’ll join us for the exciting journey.

Dr. Jose S. Villa
Chief Executive Officer at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project