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Rallying to Support Farmworkers

By Sister Sofia Berrones, MCDP

Rallying to Support Farmworkers

Salinas Valley in Monterey County, one of California's most productive agricultural regions, is located 60 miles south of San Jose or Silicon Valley. It earned its nickname "Salad Bowl of the World" for the mass production of roughly 70% of the nation's lettuce and spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, peppers, and numerous other crops.

COVID-19 has ravaged agricultural workers. The death rate from COVID-19 is much higher in counties with farmworkers due to working and living conditions with multiple families in one house and an entire family living in one bedroom. At work in the fields, harvest crews work side-by-side cutting rows of vegetables, making it impossible to keep six feet apart.

To bring attention to their challenging circumstances, Darlene Tenes, the granddaughter of farmworkers, began organizing "caravans" to agricultural fields in Watsonville, Hollister, and Salinas since the pandemic began delivering tons of food items, hygiene products, and other essentials for families such as diapers.

Recently for the May 1 (Cinco de Mayo) Farmworker caravan headed for Hollister, Sister Rosario Munoz, and Sister Sofia Berrones, MCDP, arrived joyfully at the San Jose Flea Market with $1000 worth of coffee, canned milk, and cooking oil. They bought these items from the established list of non-perishable items with a grant provided by the Catholic Extension special program, Sisters on the Frontlines Program, who partnered with other Catholic Foundations to respond to the immediate needs of communities impacted COVID-19.  

Sister Guadalupe Ramirez, Congregational Leader for the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence, was contacted by the Catholic Extension in Chicago if she had Sisters on the Frontlines. They could use the funds for those suffering the adverse effects of the pandemic.  Sister Guadalupe promptly responded, "certainly, we have Sisters who are ready to assist."

The items were welcomed with smiles and gratitude by Ms. Darlene Tenes and her effervescent volunteers.  While Ms. Tenes is the originator, creator, and master strategist of the Farmworker Caravan, she is always complimentary of the many individual community members, local businesses, and corporations for their invaluable support (Habitat for Humanity, Flea Market San Jose Berryessa, Latinos@amazon, CasaQ, Garden of the Flea, Hunger at Home, Nueva Foto, Prusch Services, Mission Food Hub, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San José and the Diocese of Monterey, San José Parks Foundation and Knight Sounds.

Words cannot express the sentiments of these recipients, but their tears, smiles, and grateful eyes say, "mil gracias, thank you for remembering us, and God bless you."


Bishop Cantu went on the caravan last year.  See pics > https://www.nuevafoto.com/Photography/FarmworkerCaravan-10-17-2020/n-S5pJKG/