County farmworker camps at capacity

2010-05-17T00:00:00Z County farmworker camps at capacityBy MIKE TRELEVEN Register Staff Writer Napa Valley Register

The county is finding that it pays to advertise.

It’s still spring and Napa County’s three farm labor camps are already full — the earliest that has happened since the county took over management of the three Upvalley camps three years ago.

All 180 beds are full at the Calistoga Farmworker Housing Center, Mondavi Farmworker Housing Center and River Ranch Farmworker Housing Center. In years past the farm centers have struggled to operate at between 60 to 75 percent capacity at this time of the season.

Nancy Johnson, Napa County’s Housing and Community Development program manager, gives much of the credit to the improved outreach by the California Human Development Corporation, which the county contracts with to manage the three facilities.

In the past, authorities say many seasonal workers have chosen to stay in cars to save money or crowd into apartments rather than go to the camps and live by the rules regarding proof that they are agricultural workers and prohibitions against drinking alcohol.

A strategic effort has been made to advertise the amenities of the camps, where the $12 daily cost includes access to meals and showers.

Itinerant workers from elsewhere in the state and those who follow the fruit harvest in the Pacific Northwest as well as working in wine country are finding out about the camps via word-of-mouth, flyers and other means.

“I hope we are seeing a turnaround,” Johnson said of the increased occupancy at the three farm centers.

Ultimately, the county would like to see these farmworkers remain in Napa Valley through the duration of the winegrape season, instead of moving north to Washington state and Oregon for the apple and pear season.

If the occupancy numbers remain strong for the farm centers, Johnson said the county envisions some day building a future farmworker center in the Carneros.

Napa Valley grape grower Pat Garvey said a golf tournament on May 7 raised $40,000 to $45,000 for the three farmworker centers. The money is used for upgrades and repairs to everything from kitchen appliances to landscaping.

He said it is important to let the farmworkers know what is available here. Garvey said many farmworkers are attracted to the Napa Valley because of the “nice accommodations, availability of work and for paying better wages than in the Central Valley.”

 “We are known for our accommodations,” he said. “The farm centers are top notch. And everyone takes it upon themselves to make sure workers earn a fair wage.”

Garvey said it is not unusual to see employees return every year.

“I’d say 80 to 90 percent of the workers here are with us nearly year round.”

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(22) Comments

  1. Tim
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    Tim - May 17, 2010 4:48 am
    The article states...."where the $12 daily cost includes access to meals and showers."

    Does that mean the $12 dollars includes meals and showers or for an extra charge they are available?
  2. Paddy
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    Paddy - May 17, 2010 6:53 am
    Because of the recent uproar over illigal immigrants why doesn't the NVR include information about what checks are done on these workers to ensure that they are in this country legally and have the corret visas and documents to work here?

    How do they stay here year round if they are migrant workers?
  3. JustAnotherManicMonday
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    JustAnotherManicMonday - May 17, 2010 9:12 am
    And do they also check legal status/green card status?
  4. happy_in_napa
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    happy_in_napa - May 17, 2010 9:12 am
    sorry just have to say this about the idea of a camp in carneros. NIMBY. I feel very strongly about this and will protest heavily if they try to put one in carneros. I wish I could find a place to sleep that is clean and provides showers and a bed for just 360 a month. Lets just say that those who live in BV do not want this in our backyard. We pay a lot for our homes to not have transients roaming the streets.
  5. Paddy
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    Paddy - May 17, 2010 10:02 am
    I asked the same question as ManicMonday but questioned why the NVR doesn't report on that little aspect of this needed accomodation for migrant farm workers (key word, migrant).

    But if they are migrant, how can they live here year round?
  6. Tim
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    Tim - May 17, 2010 10:05 am
    The Article states: where the $12 daily cost includes access to meals and showers.

    What exactly does "access" mean? meals and showers are provided for the $12 or that for an additional charge meals and showers are provided?
  7. amazed
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    amazed - May 17, 2010 10:27 am
    Have the 80-90% who are here year-round applied for citizenship?
  8. yerbotherinme
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    yerbotherinme - May 17, 2010 12:07 pm
    Why is the County in this game at all? If the agricultural interests want cheap labor, let them pay for it. We must quit subsidizing artificially "cheap" labor through our tax dollars. Pay a wage that allows someone to get housing. Everybody else has to or they don't get the workers for their businesses. I'm not getting a nickel a bottle on grower's wine. Why should growers get a nickel of our tax dollars?
  9. ruralresident
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    ruralresident - May 17, 2010 12:46 pm
    Happy_in_napa: The camp up valley is quiet, blends well with the environment and, to my knowledge, we have had no problems. If you want to continue buying food at a price, which in part, allows you to coninue your glorified life style, then you must support migrant and/or low paid farm workers. You can't have it both ways. If you prefer they live in the the bushes, or by the bushel in our neighborhoods, well, then you are just full of self-interest and a sad example good citizenship.
  10. Mobetta
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    Mobetta - May 17, 2010 1:21 pm
    Garvey said, "80 to 90 percent of the workers are with us here year round".

    Well of course they are, life there is too good to leave and return even if they could return.
  11. L Wheeler
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    L Wheeler - May 17, 2010 1:53 pm
    Rural Resident, please tell me what food we are growing for cheap in Napa that makes it neccesary to subsidize housing for farmworkers. I do not believe that alcoholic recreational beverages need to be taxpayer funded. Teacher's Aids make less than farmworkers, where is their housing? Walmart employees make less where is there housing? How about paying decent wages to employees. Yeah, we might have to give up our mansions on the hill, but hey shouldn't hoggish behavior be out of style?
  12. post-it
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    post-it - May 17, 2010 2:57 pm
    Rural, the camp houses 180 beds - there must be 10 times that many living "by the bushel in neighborhoods" in Napa. The camp is a drop in the bucket. I'm sure the 200 wineries in Napa employ more than 180 temporary workers
  13. Tiredofcomplainingnapkins
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    Tiredofcomplainingnapkins - May 17, 2010 4:10 pm
    Whats funny about this is if the wineries paid a living wage then this wouldn't happend. The owners of a lot of these wineries make millions of dollars a year, if they would take a cut of say a million dollars and pay a decent wage then these workers could afford to live in the area they work. Unfourtantly millions is never enough for these people. Whats the difference between 15 and 14 million to someone, not a lot to them, but that extra million could go towards paying a good wage for hundreds of people.

    To ruralresident,

    You are right with your comments, but If the people who are making the millions off cheap labor would pay a better wage and still be happy with the millions they are making then we could still have affordable produce. Unfourtantly its never enough for a lot of these people and they will continue their business ways, thats capitalism for you.
  14. monkey77
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    monkey77 - May 17, 2010 4:52 pm
    Funny how no one complains about the vineyard workers when your enjoying the wine they pick the grapes for!
  15. kck
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    kck - May 17, 2010 5:34 pm
    There are actually people that have posted in other discussions that could use a 360 a month room to get out from under the State programs. Maybe they should be given priority if their willing to work there also.
  16. alucawanza
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    alucawanza - May 17, 2010 5:56 pm
    From the article:
    A strategic effort has been made to advertise the amenities of the camps, where the $12 daily cost includes access to meals and showers.

    Sounds clear to me.

    I'm glad this program is a success.
  17. ruralresident
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    ruralresident - May 17, 2010 6:46 pm
    To all who responded to my post, you are right and I fully agree with you. However, until the disfunctional migrant labor system is changed, it won't change here. Until the employers and corporations who hire cheap labor and migrants are forced to improve their wages, nothing will change. In the meantime, camps are more humane than bushes. Yes, I've seen them living in the bushes.

    Off the subject, it is the corporations and employers who bring the illegal immigrants here. Go after them and you will see change. You are wasting your time blaming the workers.
  18. yerbotherinme
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    yerbotherinme - May 17, 2010 9:31 pm
    The old southern plantation owners used to say the same thing about their slave quarters. "The camp is quiet, blends well with the environment and we have had no problems." Now let's get back to choppin' cotton if you want cheap clothes. What a load of bunk this is to keep grape growers subsidized.
  19. MamaKing
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    MamaKing - May 18, 2010 12:02 am
    HappyinNapa? I own land in Carneros and wouldn't mind vineyard-worker housing here. Why? Because most vineyard workers I have encountered over the past couple of decades are low-key people. That is, they do nothing but work (hard!) during the work day and, legal or not, do nothing to cause trouble or otherwise draw attention. And those commenters who would like to take advantage of $360 a month for room & board? Okay, but you'd be sharing a dorm-type room with cafeteria-type food. But, let's see how good a deal this is. Using the cost per person for a hypothetical family of four, $360 x 4 would be $1,440/mo. If this family rented a 2BR apartment, that would cost (according to the want-ads) roughly $1,000/mo. That leaves $440 for food, electricity and hot water (costs apparently included with farm workers' housing). Seems to me that the farm worker housing costs are comparable to other renters' costs...maybe high when considering shared bathrooms and the like.
  20. kck
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    kck - May 18, 2010 4:48 pm
    MamaKing, good job on the math. Makes sense.
  21. MamaKing
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    MamaKing - May 18, 2010 11:20 pm
    Thanks, Kck! Unfortunately, those who oppose this housing because people are getting such a "good deal" are not going to respond because it makes sense; they have no counter argument.
  22. kck
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    kck - May 19, 2010 4:53 pm
    Mamaking, I guess that was my point. I made the same assumption but when you do the math, it's basic room and board. Anyway, thanks.
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