Advocacy & Activism, Migrant & Seasonal Workers

Fremont Church Organizes Appreciation Day for Farmworkers

From TheNews-Messenger.com, Daniel Carson, 18 Jul 2011.

Samuel Mejia, Juan Reyna Sr. and Saul Salinas of Los Superiores del Norte perform Sunday at the Farmworker Appreciation Day/Fiesta at Hayes Memorial United Methodist Church. / Daniel Carson/News-Messenger

Samuel Mejia, Juan Reyna Sr. and Saul Salinas of Los Superiores del Norte perform Sunday at the Farmworker Appreciation Day/Fiesta at Hayes Memorial United Methodist Church. / Daniel Carson/News-Messenger

FREMONT [OH] — Area farmworkers took a day off and brought their families out for a leisurely afternoon of relaxation Sunday, as they gathered at Hayes Memorial United Methodist Church for Farmworker Appreciation Day/Fiesta.

A crowd of 350 people attended the event, which included live music, prizes and entertainment for the workers’ children.

Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services employee Pablo Nunez said Fremont and the surrounding areas have the highest concentration of farmworkers in the state.

“Usually, this is the busiest time,” Nunez said, as farmworkers enjoyed music from Los Superiores del Norte under a white tent and their children played on inflatable rides in the nearby grass.

Alamar Arriaga, a member of the church’s Bridge of Hope Ministry, said the event honored the work done by farmworkers and their contributions to the community.

There has been a farmworker appreciation day since 2005, Arriaga said, with the fiesta being held since 2003.

Organizers decided to combine the events this year, she said.

The event is a joint venture between the church and local-based agencies associated with the Farmworker Agencies Liaison Communication and Outreach Network, including Catholic Charities, Pathstone, Texas Migrant Ministry, en Camino and Ohio State Extension.

Alma Gutierrez, a Genoa-based DJFS employee, manned a migrant seasonal farm worker informational booth at the event.

Gutierrez said her office collaborates with agricultural employers to find seasonal workers in an eight-county service area.

She said a lot of the people passing by her booth Sunday had questions about the region’s pickle crop.

“We’re looking for more labor for pickles. I don’t know if we’ll find it,” Gutierrez said.

Benito Lucio, a DJFS monitor advocate/ombudsman, said about 6,000 migrant farmworkers are in the region.

Lucio said those farmworkers are sometimes underappreciated, given the long distances they travel to find work and the effort they expend in the fields.

He said the migrant workers fill a need for the area’s farm owners, who often can’t find seasonal employees from the existing workforce pool.

Nunez said that, in addition to pickles, tomatoes are also one of the major crops in the region.

Email Daniel Carson at dacarson@gannett.com.

Source: TheNews-Messenger.com, “Fremont church organizes appreciation day for farmworkers” by Daniel Carson, 18 Jul 2011.

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