Spring marks the return of fruit and vegetable harvest in the Salinas Valley region. With heavy rains, cold winter weather and our area recovering from flooding, that harvest has been delayed but consumers can be assured that they will enjoy leafy greens, vegetables and strawberries with the harvest continuing into November.
While we understand the importance of providing healthy produce to consumers, recovery remains the priority with major efforts undertaken to help communities recover from flooding. One small town in particular in Monterey County, Pajaro, has suffered from widespread damage due to a major breach of the Pajaro River levee on March 10. This breach left homes, businesses and farms flooded and crucial jobs lost.
This will be a long road to recovery for this largely farm worker community as federal disaster assistance was not immediately available and not approved until weeks after the flooding occurred. This delayed help with rent assistance, clean-up and repairs to homes and businesses. To offset and augment delayed federal assistance, many businesses and individuals contributed to local charities to help with immediate needs for residents including short-term housing, food, furniture, clothing and other essentials.
To fill a crucial gap in health care needs, the Grower Shipper Association of Central California (GSA) and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas (Clinica) immediately stepped in to provide medical care, medication replacement and hygiene supplies in the aftermath of the flooding.
GSA and Clinica set up a mobile clinic at the main shelter for displaced Pajaro residents so services were readily accessible and then moved it to Pajaro once evacuation orders were lifted. The medical care was funded by a grant awarded to GSA therefore these services were provided free-of-charge to the community.
To date, 43% (1,500) of Pajaro residents have accessed the medical services and essential supplies provided by the GSA/Clinica partnership.
“While we were pleased that federal assistance was approved on April 4 to help residents, businesses and farms recover, the flooding occurred on March 10 so it was imperative to provide immediate assistance to this severely impacted community and address gaps,” says Christopher Valadez, GSA President. “As we did during the pandemic, GSA and Clinica worked quickly to provide crucial services for impacted residents to offset delays in government services.”
Long-term, the attention is on job recovery since individual farms in Pajaro employed hundreds and suffered severe losses and it could take local businesses weeks to reopen. But temporary housing is the most crucial need and unemployment compounds the problem.
GSA is committed to continue to help communities impacted by flooding. As we enter spring and we see the harvest begin, there is a seemingly reassuring component to a return to the business of providing food to consumers. But, we must keep our attention on those in long-term need of critical support. — Grower-Shipper Association of Central California