Updated: May 3, 2021
Introduction by Olga Gonzalez
Throughout 2020, members of Project Protect Promotora Network (“PPPN”) were forced to work under the ever-changing and harsh conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of our ongoing efforts to provide agricultural workers around the state with PPE, food, referrals and know your rights information, we also advocated for COVID-19 mobile testing sites that would be more accessible to them and to the many promotores who are part of PPPN. We also had early conversations about how we would message about the COVID-19 vaccinations, particularly to people of color. We had conversations with several state and local agencies who are in charge of informing the community about vaccination clinics. A few of our regional partners in other parts of the state were vaccinated weeks ago thanks to support from PPPN, in conjunction with their own advocacy efforts and champions within their local health departments.
In several regions, it was a frustrating and exhausting experience to have to explain to state and local health agencies, over and over, about the need to place promotores in a priority category as community health workers. Although the members of PPPN are mostly people of color-the highest risk group in our state, we have been repeatedly asked to provide direct services and to refer others for vaccinations without considering the risks we would be exposed to.
I personally contracted COVID twice in 3 months despite all of the precautions taken. Anecdotally, a friend’s white colleague, who is not an essential worker or 70+ years old, easily got a vaccination weeks ago because she knew someone at a local clinic...How many communities of color have that kind of access? People with privilege (White and economic), are continuing to hog up vaccinations the way they hogged up toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic! Needless to say, this is a very urgent health equity and racial justice issue that is a very personal issue for me, for our community and for my colleagues.
I say all of this to first, highlight the extra work that organizations and communities of color have to do to get heard. It took months of advocacy to secure vaccinations for our PPPN promotoras. Many have taken advantage of this opportunity to protect their health and the health of their families and communities. For some of us who did decide to get vaccinated, we did so with mixed feelings. Some of us know about the history of medical racism and experimentation targeting communities of color and we also carry the trauma of those experiences faced by our parents and grandparents. In the end, we prayed that no harm would come to us and were guided by a strong desire to protect our community.
Still, many clinics, hospitals and government agencies assumed that they could simply let organizations know about the availability of vaccinations and that our community would easily show up. They neglected to recognize and acknowledge the distrust, and harm caused by “new” vaccinations and medical treatments that have historically targeted our communities. They also failed to use language and messaging that would resonate with people of color. They also ignored the need to offer vaccinations and compensation to those doing their work.
Moving forward, there must be ongoing dialogue about how to create systems and policies that are more equitable and relevant. We need to look at existing policies from the lens of the most impacted communities, from the lens of those who do essential work, if we are to truly protect the health of those who are being devastated by this pandemic. We are happy that farmworkers around the state will finally be getting access to COVID-19 vaccinations in March and we will continue to advocate for equitable policies that protect our community.
Executive Director, Cultivando
Steering Committee Member, PPPN
When speaking with an agricultural worker in northern Colorado, one promotora noted “they need to learn more about the vaccine. [The worker] says he is very misinformed about this and that he is really afraid of getting vaccinated.” After the interaction he shared, “Thanks for the information, I would like to learn more about the vaccine, after talking more with you I would be interested in taking it." (February 2021)
North Subregion 1
North subregion 1, led by Regional Organizer Rocio Franco, has worked on a variety of community issues and has connected their community with a multitude of resources. They partnered with a local church in Fort Lupton as a food box distribution site, addressing food insecurity. Understanding the presence of domestic violence, they referred 5 people to Blue Bench and different victim services in the area of Brighton. Providing resources for a good living conditions is also a priority in this region. Through their connection with Brighton Housing Authority they gave a bedroom set and mattress to a family in need. Similarly, they also partnered with the "No Left Behind Workers Fund" as a means to connect families to rent assistance. They have also been busy providing COVID-19 vaccine outreach and education through a partnership with the Migrant Health Director from the Salud Family Health center in Brighton. Through this partnership they successfully secured 20 vaccination spots for farm workers 70 years old and older. They are now preparing for an expected influx of 400 farm workers arriving for the Spring growing season. The team is excited to serve them as best they can!
Farms Reached in North 1
Little Valley Farm
Front Range Dairy
TV Dairy, LLC
Magnes Land and Cattle
Green House of Colorado
Duran's Hobby Acres Greenhouse
The Tree Farm Nursery Garden
Green Sport, Inc.
Botany Lane Greenhouse
North Subregion 2
North subregion 2 is led by Regional Organizer Soraya Leon, who assumed the role for this region in January. In her new role, she quickly organized her team’s outreach activities, focusing on food access and providing COVID-19 rapid testing to the community. The team visited about 14 farms and dairies to provide knowledge, build trust, and strengthen relationships with the community. One example of this is an event they held on February 6th, 2021, during which they distributed 276 food boxes, administered 19 COVID-19 tests, and gave away 76 toys to children. The team’s shared passion for providing aid to their community has led them to personally delivering groceries to those who were not able to make it to the distribution events. This team is currently in the process of expanding their network and are beginning a partnership with La Cocina, a community organization that will help them reach even more community members.
Farms Reached in North 2
Longs Peak Dairy
Great Western Dairy
Marks Milky Way Dairy
Podtburg and sons Farm
Mountain View Lambs Farm
Buxman Farming Dairy
North Subregion 3
Dolores del Campo is the Regional Organizer for North subregion 3 and has been diligently and compassionately organizing her team around the needs of her community, while also prioritizing the health and wellbeing of her team. The team was regularly informed of the community’s desire for GED classes and English classes, and took action by reaching out to regional partners to successfully connect individuals to these classes. An important partner in this work was the Bueno / HEP program. Together they coordinated GED classes in Wiggins, reduced economic barriers to GED exams for agricultural workers, and provided 10 Chromebooks for them to use in preparation for their GED exam. They have also coordinated English language classes that can be attended by community members in Wiggins. The team is currently working with CBoces, OMC and Vuela Health to coordinate classes/training on mental health. In addition, they have also been conducting outreach to local farms and dairies and distributing hundreds of food boxes throughout their region. Dolores prioritized the health and wellbeing of her team, acknowledging that this work can be heavy on the mind and Spirit. She reached out to her co-workers to organize a healing circle. During this circle, the team acquired tools to help them take care of their minds, give themselves space to reflect on their work, and to release the sadness and pain that they see on a day to day basis. The team decided that healing circles will continue monthly and that this space is needed in these tough times!
Farms Reached in North 3
5 Start Feedlot
4 M Feeders
La Rueda Dairy
Prospect Valley Dairy
San Luis Valley Region
The San Luis Valley region, led by Luis Murillo, have been supporting their community not only through food access but also through pushing policy change, and creating a small community store (La Bodegita). The SLV team is very creative with their outreach work and saw the need to provide COVID-19 prevention kits for agricultural workers, these kits consist of hand sanitizer, masks, tissues and information on COVID-19. In order to store all of these supplies and provide a community center for volunteers to help in this work, they created La Bodegita in partnership with Tierra Nueva of Alamosa. The team’s work has not gone unnoticed and local health departments have reached out to them, asking for their help in the next phase of vaccinations, which will include agricultural workers. Part of this effort includes educating and advocating for the agricultural worker community regarding vaccine choice and equity. Finally, the team has had several meetings with policy makers, such as Senator Fields, and they have built relationships with organizations such as the Agricultural Regional Coalition and the Regional Hazard Team.
Farms Reached in San Luis Valley
Rahkra Mushroom Farm
Mountain King Potato Farm
Smoking Spud Potato
The Southeast region, which is led by Betty Velasquez, has been distributing food to their community, participating in professional development training and meeting with policy-makers advocating for agricultural workers in Colorado. They successfully partnered with Sparrow House Ministry to provide weekly food distributions for families in Lamar & Las Animas counties. Similarly, they developed a partnership for a food box distribution program in Crowley and Otero Counties. The Promotoras in the Pueblo area coordinated additional food access through a new partner, Rocky Mountain SER, supplementing their food distribution and allowing them to give more food to more families. In addition to food access the region also collaborated with US Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Commission to provide EEO and Sexual harassment training for the entire Project Protect Promotora Network. They also met with Senator Danielson to promote the Agricultural Workers Bill of Rights, which calls for basic human and labor rights for farm workers in Colorado. Similarly, the team connected with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) to support the legislation regarding data privacy.
Farms Reached in Southeast
Western Slope Region
In the Western Slope region led by Angeles Mendez, outreach and community connections have been made and are thriving! The team has held clothing drives, distributing much needed clothes to their community. A connection with local Goodwill’s was made to receive clothes vouchers for local agricultural workers and H2A visa workers. They also built relationships with local food banks to distribute food to community and agricultural workers, through this partnership the team also hosted a food drive! Not only has the Western Slope been working hard to provide food and clothes to farm workers and their community, they also partnered with Curative testing and Mako Lab to provide COVID-19 testing. The team is currently providing weekly COVID-19 tests to the community!
Farms Reached on Western Slope
The Promotora Network has been extremely busy in the past couple of months. Their hard work and dedication has shined as the Promotores have been able to have almost 12,500 conversations with community members across the state. Their job is not easy and they often face brutally cold, below zero weather. Even though the weather was severe, they still delivered hundreds of food boxes, organized COVID-19 testing events, delivered toys to families and instilled knowledge and power in their communities. Moreover, they are now gathering stories from agricultural workers to push policy change in the Colorado legislature.
In the upcoming months the Promotora Network will be working to provide COVID-19 vaccine options to agricultural workers. Roughly 10% of the Colorado population has been fully vaccinated, or approximately 572,000 Coloradans, as of the first week of March. These numbers are parallel to vaccination rates nationally. The network has already been speaking to workers to assess desires to get the vaccine, fears and misinformation, and barriers to access. There is still more work to do with vaccination messaging and education, hosting vaccination events and partnering with their local public health agencies and clinics to make sure agricultural workers who want the vaccine have the choice to receive it.
Report Prepared by FrontLine Farming, Kassandra Neiss