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Hearts of Service / People Like Us

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of launch of the Project Protect Promotora Network. Over this last year, Project Protect Food System Worker's Data Team collaborated with University of Denver's Ethnography Lab to conduct an ethnographic re-telling of the motivation behind and formation of the Promotora Network. After one year we are still strong, active, and serving thousands of agricultural workers and their families every month. This white paper, written by Gabrielle Hyde with Kassandra Neiss, highlight some of this expansive journey and the team members with "hearts of service."

Project Protect Food Systems Workers (PPFSW) formed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of working collaboratively to protect the rights of food systems workers as the pandemic exacerbated the consequences of our broken food system that fails to ensure protection for the hands that feed us. Farmworkers often exist in vulnerable social and occupational positions that make accessing health care a challenge. Furthermore, they have been effectively invisible in any protections or relief during this pandemic while working on the front lines to maintain our food systems. In aiming to tackle this issue and work towards attaining health equity, PPFSW developed the Promotora Network which employs members of Latinx communities to provide resources and increase the agency of farmworker communities.

With the guidance and direction of members of the PPFSW Steering Committee, we hope to tell the story of PPFSW and the Promotora Network through ethnographic research during this unprecedented and profound year. As an anthropology student at the University of Denver, I (Gabrielle Hyde) conducted this project with a fellow student, Zoi Johns, and Dr. Alejandro Cerón, who served as our mentor and coordinator throughout this project.

The passion of all those involved in this project is evident – many have spent their lives working towards justice for farmworkers and marginalized communities. The dedication of the individuals within this collaborative network and the community-initiative promotor/a model has been a huge factor in overcoming the numerous challenges they have encountered during this unpredictable year. The Promotora Network has deeply impacted community members across the state of Colorado and the need to continue this work is apparent.

With the heavy use of excerpts taken from interviews with PPFSW leaders, this document tells the inspiring narrative of the development and course of PPFSW’s Promotora Network. It details some of the challenges that PPFSW and the promotores struggled with throughout this time including the uncertainty that comes with the emergent nature of its funding, the risk of exposure to COVID endured by the promotores while doing outreach, the limited access to farmworkers, and the fear that persists among these communities due to the anti-immigrant climate in our country. Despite this, the promotor/a model has proved to be inherently sustainable as it elevates the voices of existing leaders within the community. The collaborative culture shared amongst this community and the dedication and adaptability that each individual has demonstrated has made these efforts a success even in times of uncertainty and adversity and will enable this much-needed work to continue in the future.

September 2021

Denver, CO

Paper authored by:

Gabrielle Hyde | University of Denver


Kassandra Neiss | FrontLine Farming

Hearts of Service
Download PDF • 533KB

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