1st Bay Area Farmworker Convention expected to gather hundreds from all over CA

Lauren Martinez Image
Sunday, March 17, 2024
1st Bay Area Farmworker Convention expected to gather hundreds in CA
A first-of-its-kind Farmworker Convention is expected to bring hundreds of California farmworkers together in Pescadero on Sunday.

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A first-of-its-kind Farmworker Convention is expected to bring hundreds of California farmworkers together in Pescadero.

The event was planned by farmworkers, for farmworkers.

Puente de la Costa Sur and Coastside Hope are two organizations hosting the event.

Rogelio Nabor Martinez, one of the planners and a farmworker, works in Pescadero.

"I think that the importance for Sunday of the convention is that we make ourselves known as farmers or raise our voices as farmworkers," Martinez said.

MORE: Half Moon Bay reflects on what changed 1 year after farmworkers killed in mass shooting

Judith Guerrero, executive director of Coastside Hope, said a wide region of farmworkers from the mid-coast, south coast, down to Davenport, Santa Cruz and Watsonville are expected to attend.

"So it's really the union of an entire region coming together to learn, but also to share about their stories and their lives. And we are really excited that this will be a space where farmworkers will get to meet other farmworkers from other areas," Guerrero said.

From 8 p.m to 5 p.m., the day will be filled with workshops, panelists and guest speakers.

"We are going to have two panels. A panel of male farmworkers and a panel of female farmworkers, and this will be an opportunity for the audience and elected officials who will be present to hear about concerns, their joys, their challenges, but also the pride that they feel in the work that they do as farmworkers," Guerrero said.

The two speakers include farmer-turned-NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, and founder of Dreamer's Roadmap, Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca.

MORE: Farmer turned NASA astronaut inspires hundreds in San Jose with tale that inspired Amazon biopic

NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez inspired hundreds of farmworkers and their families after sharing his achievements with them Sunday afternoon.

Guerrero hopes they can share their stories of becoming community leaders.

In the farming community there is pride and there are problems.

ABC7 asked Martinez, what is the biggest problem facing the farming community? In his perspective, there are many problems. The first being decent housing for farmworkers.

Farmers living in shipping containers surfaced during the Half Moon Bay mass shooting in January of 2023.

Last September, a property in Pajaro in Monterey County, was cited several times by code enforcement. According to a county citation, lack of heating, roach infestation, lack of ventilation, missing smoke and monoxide alarms are just some of the violations listed.

MORE: In wake of tragedy, 50-acre lot to be turned into Half Moon Bay farmworker housing and co-op

Raymon Cancino is the CEO of Community Bridges, a multiservice agency that provides support and legal aid.

"The units themselves were technically three commercial units - never were they residential apartments," Cancino said.

He says the 17 unit converted apartment complex housed farmworkers and their families, many if not all were undocumented.

"We were able to see the very gross, gross, neglect as well as individuals who were just caught up in this situation," Cancino said.

One unit was red-tagged.

MORE: How Half Moon Bay farmworkers are healing from mass shooting tragedy through music

Eventually the property owner decided to evict everyone around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"We were able to raise about $90,000 that was split amongst the families that were residing and living there. And we were able to help them have a first month- last month's rent," Cancino said.

Cancino said it's important to note they not only help with the legal aspects, but mental health support.

"It completely undermines people's sense of grounded-ness, sense of stability, and really puts people in tailspins," Cancino said.

MORE: Bay Area nonprofit ALAS celebrates 10 years of helping Half Moon Bay farmworkers, families

Cancino says some of those tenants are seeking civil litigation against the landlord.

"He continued to profiteer, and continued to rent rooms knowingly that he was not in compliance," Cancino said.

Cancino said situations like these do not need to continue. He believes there should be a systemic shift across agriculture to ensure that they are producing housing.

"Until we have legislation at the statewide level that mandates a certain percentage of agricultural farmworker housing be created on farmworker land, I don't see a solve for this outside of forcing an industry to pay people more. And that's just - un-American," Cancino said.

MORE: Agrihood: CA's largest urban farm that combines affordable housing opens in Santa Clara

Cancino said with an industry like farming - there's a huge sense of pride, but it's undervalued.

He thinks the Farmworker Convention is the right approach- and can serve as an opportunity to build leadership from farmworkers directly.

"And so I hope that more of these gatherings, across sectors, across people of color are uplifted, are created, and I hope we improve the well being of those around us," Cancino said.

The Farmworker Convention will be held this Sunday at Pescadero High School. For more information click here.

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