FRESNO, CALIF. - Essential workers employed by California cantaloupe growers are among some of the first front-line food workers to receive COVID vaccines in the state, according to the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board.
“We’re so thankful to be able to offer our workers these life-saving vaccines,” said Garrett Patricio of Westside Produce Company, a cantaloupe harvesting, packing and shipping company located in Firebaugh, Calif. “Farmworkers are just one of the many groups who need and want to be vaccinated and we urge federal and state leaders to get more shots in more arms of more workers as quickly as possible.”
This week over 800 employees that work hard to pick, pack and cultivate cantaloupe will receive shots — all thanks to the quick work of a team comprised of Patricio, California Secretary of Food Agriculture Karen Ross, local health care provider Valley Health Team, the Fresno County Department of Public Health and the Fresno Ag Commissioner’s office.
According to Patricio, vaccinations at a majority of the county’s cantaloupe farming operations were made possible by quickly reaching out to local government officials and securing an approved health provider. In addition to Westside Produce, other cantaloupe companies instrumental in securing vaccines for their workers include Del Bosque Enterprises, R&N Packing Company and Toma-Tek Firebaugh.
“Fresno County Department of Health has been working to make sure we have a plan in place for vaccinating farm employees,” said Tom Fuller, who works for the county health department as the liaison to the ag industry. “We’ve tested this plan and it’s working successfully as we’re seeing with these vaccination events involving cantaloupe growers. We’re ready to do this in a big way as soon as more vaccines become available through the State.”
Cantaloupe farmers will continue enforcing safety measures put in place during last season’s harvest to protect workers who choose not to receive the vaccine. The cantaloupe industry was able to get by with relatively few COVID outbreak incidents last year, but vaccines will go a long way to help reduce risk among workers.
Fresno County ag businesses with questions or who are interested in scheduling vaccinations are encouraged to contact the Fresno County Department of Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.