It’s 2021, and with 2020 in the rearview mirror, let’s all hope these vaccines, our social distancing and our personal protective measures help eradicate this pandemic in the New Year.
As we look back upon some of the heroes from 2020, I can’t help but recognize the work of the California Farmworker Foundation and their executive director, Hernan Hernandez, who has been working most of the year out of the spotlight, making sure his farmworkers are protected and that the farmers have a healthy workforce. Were it not for the hard work of our farmworkers, the effects of the pandemic, especially when it pertains to the availability of food, would have been much worse.
It was Hernan who came to the District 4 office way before anybody else was offering to help and volunteered his organization to go out in the fields and start testing our essential farmworkers where they work. This was important as CFF had already built up trust with their workers and trust is critical when asking farmworkers to do something public like getting tested for COVID.
Working closely with our office and Good Samaritan Hospital, another hero in this effort, Hernan laid the foundation with the farmers who had to agree with this intrusion into their work processes and the farmworkers whose livelihood could be affected by a positive test.
His work brought national attention to the fields of Kern County, as several national news networks reported this testing as the first of its kind in the country. It was so newsworthy that the surgeon general of the United States, Jerome Adams, paid us a visit to check out our innovative program. And it was so successful that others created programs similar to it.
The program has spread to Tulare and Fresno counties as well. Not long after CFF’s program was being praised, the Latino Task Force was created, with one of its goals to replicate CFF’s testing program in the rural communities of Kern County. Now, thanks to the Task Force and CFF, the fields, the vineyards, the processing plants and the communities where our farmworkers live are getting the testing needed to understand and attempt to control this virus outbreak. CFF is averaging 1000 tests per day, 5 days per week. This is a huge accomplishment and an important component in helping Kern County reach its goals.
While others put a dollar figure to the county for the work they were offering to help with testing, CFF has done it for free for all of 2020, out of a commitment to serving their constituents and being part of the solution. This is unheard of in these times and highly appreciated.
In the coming year, we hope to solidify and expand our relationship with CFF so that we can continue providing farmworkers with testing at their worksites. Just the fact that CFF went into this in 2020 without concern for compensation and with complete commitment to their community and the farmworkers they represent to me makes Hernan Hernandez and the California Farmworker Foundation worthy of special recognition. I hope this is just one of the many expressions of gratitude they receive for their selfless commitment to our community.
Got any questions regarding this or any District 4 matter? Feel free to contact our office at District4@kerncounty.com or at 661-868-3680. I hope you have a great start to this new year.