Cornucopia’s Take: Affordable housing is rare in Salinas Valley, where much of the country’s lettuce is grown. Some larger companies are beginning to build worker housing in order to guarantee a workforce large enough to harvest the crops.

How a Farmworker ‘Company Town’ Is Taking Shape in the Salinas Valley
by Lisa Morehouse

Source: USDA

If you’ve read your John Steinbeck and listened to your Merle Haggard, or if you grew up in a farmworker family, you know that farm laborers in California have struggled to find decent housing for decades.

Except in a few cases, growers have no legal obligation to house employees, and there’s not a lot of state and federal money earmarked for farmworker housing. In the Salinas Valley — the fifth- least-affordable place to live in the country — there’s just not enough decent housing for all the people needed to pick crops like lettuce and strawberries.

If you’re a farmworker in the Salinas Valley, odds are, you’re living in the neighborhood of East Salinas. When I visit 18-year-old Rocio Tafoya at her apartment here, one of the first things she shows me is the bathroom. It has water damage and mold, and a tiny shower she can barely turn around in.

“This is how we open the cold water.” She grabs a wrench, and yanks on what’s left of the knob. “We don’t have hot water right now, it’s just cold.”

Read the entire article.

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