Video: Farmers and Farmworkers Are Essential

December 4, 2020

More than ever before, 2020 has brought home what is essential. Having farms close to your home is essential. Access to healthy food essential. Farmers markets are essential. And you are essential. When you donate to CUESA, you are uplifting these essential community needs and ensuring that the people who feed us can survive and thrive.

This month, we’re focusing on local food heroes who are essential to building the sustainable and equitable food future we all need. In this new video from CUESA, meet Apolinar⁠ “Poli” Yerena and his family in the fields of Yerena Farms near Highway 1 in Watsonville. They share what has been critical to them as their farm has nimbly adapted during this unprecedented year. 

As the pandemic has revealed cracks in the industrial food system in protecting workers and feeding our communities, small family farms have proven their resilience, agility, and innovation in responding to the crisis, keeping people at the center. 

“Our workers are very important to us,” says Poli. “Workers are the backbone of the farming business.” Born in Jalisco, Mexico, to a farming family, Poli moved to Watsonville in the 1970s, where he worked growing berries for the conglomerate Driscoll’s Inc. for 12 years. In the early 1980s, he and his brother were able to lease 2.5 acres to start their own farm, overcoming many barriers on the path from immigrant farmworkers to farm owners. They later transitioned from conventional to organic production.

More than 40 years later, Poli and his wife, Silvia, their four children, and their small crew now steward 17 acres in Watsonville and Castroville, growing organic strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and vegetables. As one of the first farms in the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and later Mission Community Market, the family and their delicious berries have built a passionate following of shoppers and restaurants alike over more than 20 years.

When COVID hit and restaurants closed overnight, the family quickly came together to rethink their business model to keep food flowing to our community. They dug up rows of strawberries and began planting vegetables to diversify their crop selection. Poli’s son Adrian, who had been a chef at Hayes Street Grill, came back to the farm and helped set up an online store and home delivery program to supplement their farmers market sales.

Through it all, the farmers market community has remained an essential lifeline for the Yerenas. “When you buy from a farmers market you start building those connections,” says Poli’s son Ricardo. “You’re obviously purchasing from a local farmer that is tied into a family, not a big corporation. You’re supporting your local family, your local community, your local everything.”


Protect the Essential Farmers and Farmworkers We Depend On

Help ensure a strong and community-centered local food system where family farms like the Yerenas can thrive, feeding our community while caring for the people who feed us. Support essential farms and farm workers in 2021 and beyond by donating to CUESA today.

Video by Fox Nakai.

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