California Institute for Rural Studies

California COFS


Reports, Presentations and Resources

COFS Press Conference for Experts in Their Fields Report
October 18, 2021
COFS Indigenous Agricultural Worker Report
October 18, 2021
English | Español

Policy Recommendations

Provide essential farmworkers with support and services beyond education to overcome barriers they face.

Farmworkers are vigilant about COVID-19 prevention practices outside of the workplace

Nearly all workers (90%) reported taking precautions to protect their families when
they arrive home. We also found that workers with children in the household reported
higher rates of household hygiene practices than those without children.

Address language barriers by including visual education along with Mexican Indigenous, Asian and non-academic Spanish languages in culturally appropriate literacy levels.

Farmworkers are unable to read or understand important safety and other resource communications

Despite the high numbers of indigenous speaking workers in CA and in our survey, indigenous workers were less likely to receive visual education 16% of our sample completed the survey in a native indigenous language. CBDIO who serves indigenous communities, completed 36% of all surveys, yet, 8 in 10 workers received a talk, 4 in 10 received a handout, fewer than 1 in 5 received a PPE demonstration.

Address barriers through expanding healthcare access and coverage regardless of documentation status.

Farmworkers lack healthcare access and experience fear using medical services.

More than half (59%) of all workers reported a lack of insurance/costs as a barrier to healthcare access, followed by a lack of sick leave (15%), fear of authorities/government (13%) and distrust of the medical system (9%). The majority of these barriers represent long-standing barriers un-related to COVID-19 which may be exacerbated by COVID.

Reduce losses for workers by helping farmers and growers adapt their food supply for times of crisis so that people work and food is available.

Expand income and safety net support for farmworkers, regardless of documentation status, and simplify access to support services.

Farmworkers experienced dramatic loss of work and income, but are also systematically excluded from important safety-net programs

Slightly more than half (52%) of all farmworkers reported decreased work time and income losses. Workers who reported lost income, were more likely to report excess burdens than those who did not experience income losses. Higher rates of financial burdens were also reported among workers who had children.

Engage farmworkers and farmworker serving CBOs to design and implement workplace safety education and outreach that will meet local needs.

Farmworkers experienced a lack of communication and transparency at worksites.

54% of workers received masks from employers, but mask provision varied by employer type. Only 23% of farmworkers were satisfied with employer safety responses and suggest that workplace education and engagement needs to be tailored to growers, packing houses, and farm labor contractors.

Ease the barriers for farmworkers to report COVID-19 related complaints and simplify access to support services.

Farmworkers feared repercussions for speaking on health and safety topics.

More than half (58%) of farmworkers reported changes in hygiene at worksites. But most of these changes were due to cleaning and provision of supplies. Less than 10% of workers reported additional bathrooms. 

COFS in Action

Based on the results of the Phase 2 of the COVID-19 Farmworker Study, COFS in Action was created. Centro Binacional para el Desarollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO), Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN), California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS), and California Food and Farming Network (CFFN) all came together to lead Phase 3 of the COFS project. Ultimately, the goal is to change the system through grassroots organizing, using research as a tool to demonstrate the systems failures, and developing open lines of communication between farmworkers and agencies. This collective is built to hold agencies accountable to ensure they fulfill their duties to protect and serve farmworkers.

california cofs partners

Researchers and Policy Advocates

Thank you to the wide range of partners who contributed countless hours of work to make this project happen throughout California. This project would not be possible without your expertise and dedication.

Researcher and Policy Advocates who have contributed to various phases of the COFS Project include:

Dr. Bonnie Bade, Dr. Sarah Ramirez, Dr. Dvera Saxton, Dr. Susan Matias, Dr. Rick Mines, Noe Paramo, Mily Treviño-Sauceda, Dr. Don Villarejo, Gail Wadsworth and Joel Diringer, with additional support from Sara Blanco, Michelle Colato-Ochoa, and Eric DeLeon.

California COFS NEWS & Media Coverage


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Alondra Santiago
Associate Researcher

Coming from an immigrant farmworker household in rural California, I felt unseen; often forgotten by our representatives. I witnessed my community and loved ones struggle due to lack of resources. This fueled my passion to aid and fight for my community. I was granted the opportunity to work within the Central Valley through my fellowship with NextGen California. This organization afforded me the ability to work on three major components: (1) getting out the vote, (2) preventing further oil drilling in Arvin, and (3) organizing a march to “Keeping Families Together.” I loved my time in the organization as my passion grew to keep empowering my community. For this reason, I went on to earn my political science degree from UC Davis seeking to come back to the Central Valley. This past year, I was honored with the opportunity to be involved in Phase 2 of the California COVID-19 Farmworker Study. I am proud to be continuing my work with the California Institute for Rural Studies, and excited to return home to be bridging political advocacy and community.

Dvera Saxton, PhD

Dvera I. Saxton, Ph.D. is a medical and environmental anthropologist based in the San Joaquin Valley. As a researcher with the California Institute for Rural Studies, she is supporting the COVID-19 farmworker study with qualitative study design and collaborative facilitation. This includes working with community-based organizations and researchers to engage with farmworkers about their lived experiences during the pandemic. This data supports agricultural workers and community based organizations in their efforts to promote systems and policy change. Dvera received her doctorate in anthropology, with an emphasis in race, gender, and social justice, from the American University in Washington, DC. She completed a postdoctoral research fellowship with the Social Science Environmental Health Institute at Northeastern University in Boston, MA and recently became an Atlantic Senior Fellow for Equity in Brain Health with the Global Brain Health Institute, based at UC San Francisco. Her book, The Devil’s Fruit: Farmworkers, Health and Environmental Justice is available from Rutgers University Press, and is based on environmental and health justice activist research she conducted with farmworker communities and their children, grandchildren, and educator allies in the Pájaro and Salinas Valleys in 2010-2013. She is also an associate professor in the anthropology department at Fresno State, where she teaches first generation undergraduate students.

Ildi Carlisle-Cummins
Executive Director

Ildi is the Executive Director of CIRS and has been with the organization for 7 years. She was the field manager for the Salinas/Pájaro Farm Worker Housing Study, supported research in the Eastern Coachella Valley and helped found the annual Rural Justice Summit in Merced. She also founded the Cal Ag Roots Project, which studies the history of California farming and tells stories about key moments in agriculture in the state. Ildi holds an M.S. in Community Development from UC Davis, where she also worked as a researcher, studying community food systems and California agriculture. She is the parent of a joyful, rambunctious kid and lives with her partner in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where she was born. Throughout her work in the food movement, Ildi’s approach always emphasizes partnership, bridge-building and justice.

This project is made possible with generous support from: