Episcopal Farmworker Ministry responds to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of farmworkers and their families, and actively supports opportunities for them to become self-directive. We seek to minister to farmworkers in three principal ways:
- through direct services
- through development and support of programs that work toward the empowerment of farmworkers and increase the level of interaction between farmworkers and the public
- through farmworker leadership development, advocacy, and education aimed toward a systematic change of agricultural policy at local and state levels.
The Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry continues this mission to provide direct services, advocacy, education and sacramental care to farmworkers in the NC counties of Johnston, Harnett and Sampson.
Every year, thanks to our generous donors, we deliver thousands of bags containing several changes of working clothes, pillows, linens, towels, toiletries and other indispensable necessities to our brother and sister farmworkers.
We have a very dedicated group of volunteers who sort and prepare all these donations for distribution.
Thanks to the Interfaith Food Shuttle’s donation of food and to donations from other churches, we are also able to feed close to 4,000 individuals during the year when work is low.
We collaborate with many organizations in the areas of Affordable Care Act enrollment, legal aid, taxes, health and education, as well as with churches from other denominations, to extend the scope of the ministry. This allowed us to offer valuable services to the farmworkers like free hair styling on Sundays, help filling taxes, workshops and referrals.
The “Water on the Fields” project allows us to distribute nearly 1,500 water bottle holders enabling farmworkers to have access to extra water in the tobacco fields during the hottest working months of the year.
1,000 high quality durable work gloves to wear while working with tobacco and sweet potatoes are distributed yearly. Farmworkers are out in the fields where retail options are scarce; their transportation options are quite limited. Any gloves available for purchase locally are poor quality and ill-suited for hard farm work.
Farmworker families have benefitted this year of new summer program activities, possible thanks to a generous donation from Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese of NC. Included with this program we had a visit to the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh and to the Sonoco Recycling Center in Raleigh. Still pending a wonderful Geology-themed hiking at the neighbor Raven Rock State Park.
English as a Second Language classes are offered weekly to help the farmworker adjust to life in North Carolina. The more a farmworker can fit into our society, the more adjusted emotionally the farmworker will be
The ministry has one Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited staff member who provides invaluable immigration assistance to the public. Yearly, roughly 1,000 clients have been assisted with immigration issues. We also conduct citizenship workshops.
We are very proud of our Visitor’s Program. Every year provides an opportunity of a life-time for young people (and also adults) to stay on-site at the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry and visit the camps to see first-hand the living conditions of the farmworker. The youth visits to camps are an emotionally uplifting experience for the farmworkers every time as it overrides isolation and break the daily routine. Often, the visiting youths are transformed by this direct contact with the very people who harvest the food that feed us all, discovering another brother or sister embodied in a different life circumstance and culture.
The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry also provides spiritual support to many. At “La Sagrada Familia”, Father Tony, conducts its church service in Spanish at the ministry each Sunday at noon; several dozen people attend during the winter months, but approximately 300 to 400 people participate each Sunday from April through September.
The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry offers immigration assistance to low income families who cannot afford to pay an attorney for immigration services. Immigration assistance provided by EFwM includes obtaining and renewing permanent residence, employment authorization documents, citizenship and other immigration services. Obtaining and maintaining current their legal immigration status allows immigrants to live and work in the United States without fear of being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to comply with the law.
For more information please contact our BIA Accredited Immigration Specialist, Maria Acosta at: 910-567-6917
Farmworkers and local residents gather every Sunday at noon to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in La Sagrada Familia.
Sunday is not only a day of worship but also a day of community. Many farmworkers from camps in which they are usually isolated have the opportunity to interact with other farmworkers in a relaxed environment with access to food and to several services provided.
ESL classes are offered from 10:30AM to 11:30AM, and transportation is provided. In collaboration with volunteers from Johnston Community College’s School of Cosmetology, we are able to offer free haircuts to farmworkers. In addition, throughout the year, we carry out on Sundays several events and workshops of interest for the farmworker community: “medical insurance enrollment events”, Free Health Fairs- checkups, educational workshops (financial education, Pesticides and Heat illness prevention). We started this year a trial service that allows farmworkers to cash checks and send money on site on Sundays.
These services wouldn’t be possible without the assistance and collaboration of many valuable partner organizations like NC Farmworkers Project, NC Farmworker Health, Campbell University, Enroll America, NC Latino Community Credit Union.
Many seasonal and migrant Latino farmworkers do not have adequate or basic English language skills. This language barrier prevents farmworkers from effectively communicating with their employer and/or the general English speaking population. Furthermore, irregular work schedules (often 10-12 hour days), lack of transportation, and isolation make it difficult for farmworkers to take advantage of ESL classes offered at local community colleges.
Because of this, we offer ESL classes twice a week on Thursdays (6:30PM to 8:00PM) and Sundays (10:30AM-11:30AM). Classes are open also to non-English speaking members of the wider community, not just farmworkers.
Benefits of ESL classes include:
- Improved ability to speak with medical providers, increasing a patient’s chance of proper care and understanding treatment protocol.
- Enabling parents to be more involved in their children’s education and promoting better communication between parents and teachers.
- Greater confidence in communicating with English speakers, increasing the chance of integration with the wider community.
This program is possible thanks to the generous donation of time and talents of so many volunteers that help us as teachers, with planning, or with economic and materials donations; and also thanks to the collaboration of Triangle South Literacy Works in Dunn.
Please contact the Program Coordinator for further information or if you want to volunteer.
The Ministry often provides transportation to farmworkers without vehicles of their own. This allows the farmworkers accessibility to the Ministry to and from the camps. Transportation is also provided for medical and immigration appointments, DMV visits, cashing checks, and airport pick-ups and drop-offs when needed during the season for an emergency or at the end of the season when farmworkers return home.
Agricultural work still falls under the 5 worse paid jobs category with an average individual income of $15,000 to $18,000. According to NWAS (National Agricultural Workers Survey 2013-2014)* approx. 1/3rd of the farmworkers have family incomes below poverty. Food distribution through the ministry serves a very important function for the farmworker community of the area.
The first Saturday of every month thanks to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s donation of food (foodshuttle.org) and to donations from other churches, we are able to feed close to 4,000 individuals per year when work is low. In 2016 we distributed more than 105,000 pounds of food this way.
This program could not exist without the inestimable help of volunteers. Jon Showalter and his family, members of Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, North Carolina, have for more than a decade driven the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle some 40 miles to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry. In addition, a wonderful group of volunteers from “La Sagrada Familia”, allows a smooth and efficient distribution of the food.
Another source of food is through occasional donations of pantry food (non-perishable, cans, rice, beans…). This food is donated by churches or other groups earmarked to be distributed to seasonal and migrant farmworkers in times of need and to H2A workers. It only amounts for a small fraction of the volume of food distributed through Inter-faith Food, but it’s a big help in times of need or low work hours periods.
Labor Camp Visits
We are very proud of our Visitor’s Program. Every year provides an opportunity of a life-time experience for youth (and also adults) to stay on-site at the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry and visit the camps to see first-hand the living conditions of the farmworkers.
The youth visits to camps are an emotionally uplifting experience for the farmworkers every time as it overrides isolation and break the daily routine. But this is a double inspiring program as the visiting youths are often transformed by this direct contact with the very people that harvest our food, showing the difficult conditions in which many farmworkers live, and encouraging introspective thought. It is all about creating a connection between the food on our plate and the human face that helped harvest it, discovering another brother or sister embodied in a different life circumstances and culture.
During 2016, we had around 20 visits during the year with members from eight churches, two schools, students from five different colleges (including St. Augustine, UNC-CH, Duke and Georgetown University (Washington D.C.)) and the presence of youth groups from two ECM, adding to a total of close to 200 participants.
Visiting groups stay at EFwM facilities, where they can sleep, cook, play, etc. They really are welcomed to feel right at home.
A donation from visiting groups is requested in order to help us pay for church facility costs.
Clothing and Toiletry Kits
Farmwork is a hard work. Clothes are quickly damaged in the fields and covered in dirt and pesticides and should be washed every day usually not in the best conditions. Similarly, the importance of personal hygiene after a working day in these conditions is of paramount importance to keep the body healthy and free of skin conditions. Farmworkers come to NC with a minimum baggage to stay for 6 to 9 months. Every year we are able to deliver hundreds of tailored bags containing several changes of working clothes, pillows, linens, towels, toiletries and other indispensable necessities to our brothers and sisters farmworkers.
Generous donations from churches and individuals throughout the two dioceses allow us to keep a steady delivery of working clothes throughout the year as farmworkers come for seasonal work in the fields.
If you are interested in donating items or start a new “clothing drive” at your organization, please contact the Program Coordinator or visit the “Get Involved” section
A major development in 2016 was the acquisition of a new (used) store building to store and organize donations. Thanks to a generous grant from the NC Episcopal Church Foundation, we were able to purchase a 24 x 36 foot mobile unit that provides plenty of space, electricity and air conditioning so volunteers can work in proper conditions.
More importantly, this allowed us to recover free space in the ministry offices to house new events in them.
We recognize the work of Mrs. Norma Panuco, her family and the group of volunteers under her leadership that sorted and prepared all these donations for distribution year long.