Ventura County aiming to keep farmworkers healthy and food safe to sustain $2 billion industry

Ventura County officials and industry executives are outlining the steps taken to keep farmworkers in the $2 billion industry healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are just over 40,000 farmworkers in Ventura County. The agriculture business in the county is a $2 billion business.

Keeping workers and the crops healthy have been a major challenge during the coronavirus pandemic.

The county says hundreds of farm workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Agriculture and health officials are emphasizing to the farmworker community the steps they need to take to keep from contracting the virus.

Ventura County Agriculture Commissioner Ed Williams says the message is clear to the farmworker community: "Wash your hands. stay home when you're sick. Maintain six feet of distance to avoid spreading the virus during work activities and break."

Health and labor officials have gone out to the fields to educate farmworkers on what they need to do to stay safe.

Israel Vasquez, who works with the county farmworker outreach program, says "We've been able to share crucial information regarding testing sites, COVID-19 symptoms face masks and how to properly use face masks."

In fact, the county says they've distributed over 1 million face masks to the farm labor force since the pandemic started. The outreach has been in English, Spanish and in a number of indigenous languages.

They're also educating the farmworker community on other resources that are available.

Angeles Small with Ventura County Mental Health says "we visit the ranches and we educate the farmworkers on COVID-19 and how to access mental health resources."

The Limoneira Company and other growers are reassuring consumers that after workers test positive for COVID-19 what was picked is safe to eat.

Limoneira Company CEO Harold Edwards says "once the fruit is picked, it goes through our packing process which includes a thorough bath to keep it safe for our consumers."
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