CIRS Blog about Rural California

A high school senior with farmworker roots may have found a way to keep workers safe when the weather is scorching hot.


Faith Florez, 17, has created an app that alerts workers when temperatures reach 95 degrees. It also gives tips for keeping cool and serves as a direct link to first responders in case of emergency.


Currently in the crowd-funding stage, the app, called Calor, has nearly reached its $60,000 goal. It also has begun to attract social media attention.

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The first six months of  2014 were the warmest ever recorded in California. According to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, the past six months were nearly 5º F hotter than the 20th century average and more than 1º F warmer than the previous record, which was set in 1934.

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Under normal circumstances, drought and increased temperatures are not necessarily connected, but scientists are now exploring the notion that heat can exacerbate dryness via increased evaporation and plant transpiration. Experts already acknowledge that dry conditions can exacerbate heat because when there’s little to no water to evaporate, the heat from the sun more effectively warms the air and the ground. The ridiculously resilient ridge that has prevented winter storms from dropping rain in California during recent years is caused by a system of high pressure thatalso contributes to warm weather.

Temperatures are on the rise throughout the state, easily exceeding triple-digits on a daily basis in warmer inland and southern regions. Even when air temperatures are relatively low, scientists have found that the earth and the oceans are warming beyond any previously recorded levels. Accordingly, California state officials have turned their attention to protecting outdoor workers from the dangerous and potentially lethal impacts of working in the heat during a summer that has proven to be one of extremes.


As the primary producer of several crops that require hand-harvesting and non-mechanical labor, California has more farm workers than any other state, and the state’s agriculture industry is more dependant on farmerworker labor than at any other point during the past century.

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Photo of a man hand weeding in Arvin, CA. Courtesy of  David Bacon

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In 2012, we created a community risk assessment tool to help workers to determine how to reduce their individual risk for heat related illness at home and in their communities. It’s called “Are you at risk for heat Illness at home? Keeping you and your family safe in the heat.”

Our problem is this: we don’t have enough funding to translate and print this tool and get it out to rural community organizations that would use it. Since we uploaded this document and its partner document (Site and Community Assessment Tool) three months ago, 300 copies of both have been downloaded.

We think “Are you at risk…” will be more accessible to small community organizations if it’s provided as a ready-to-use tool, printed and in the hands of community outreach workers. So, today, I’m asking you to make a donation specifically for this purpose.

The total cost for translation, printing and shipping 2,000 of these assessment tools is only $2,000:

  • $300 for translation
  • $1,500 for printing 2,000 copies
  • $200 for shipping to community organizations throughout the state

It’s not a lot of money but it will do a lot of good.

CIRS is a public interest research organization.  Sounds dull-- but the research we conduct often centers on stories.

  • Stories of farmers.
  • Stories of farm workers.
  • Stories of rural California communities.

We talk to people—a lot.  We listen to what they’re saying and create tools to help them get their stories out into the world in a way that is effective.  We aim to change policy and foster advocacy in rural California where many residents simply are not being heard. One of our main projects over the past two years has focused on reducing the risk of heat stress for residents in rural communities where it’s a life and death issue.

Please support this effort by contributing online at our Crowdtilt page.

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by Gail Wadsworth and Vallerye Mosquera

The California Institute for Rural Studies, University of California, Davis and the Organización de Trabajadores Agrícolas de California recently completed a collaborative research project that focused on identifying the residential and community factors related to heat stress for farmworkers living in Stockton, California and the surrounding region. The goal of this research was to create a pilot tool for assessing community and residential site factors (i.e., those factors to which they are exposed outside of the agricultural work environment) that can exacerbate farmworkers’ exposure to heat and increase their risk of heat-related illness. Photo_1web

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The debate over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) is heating up in California and across the nation. According to a recent New York Times article, more than twelve states are proposing bills that would require the labeling of food containing GMO's. The biggest battle is slated to take place in California, where the organization California Right to Know announced that they collected "971,126 signatures for the state's first-ever ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods." The article in the New York Times states that "tens of millions of dollars are expected to be spent on the election showdown" in California.

According to the California Right to Know 2012 Ballot Initiative official website: "The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act is simple: The initiative would require food sold in retail outlets such as grocery stores (not including restaurants) to be labeled if it is produced with genetic engineering. In addition to this disclosure, genetically engineered foods are prohibited from being advertised as 'natural.'"

However, the fight over the ballot initiative in November may not be so simple. A recent blog post on "The Salt," National Public Radio's (NPR) food blog, suggests that the legislation may cause more confusion than clarity for Californians. "A new analysis of the labeling initiative suggests that if it passes, it would create a complex mandate for food companies that may make it harder — not easier — for consumers to figure out what's really in their food. That's because the initiative muddies the definition of a "natural" food."

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