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Sac State’s CAMP collects essential items for migrant workers during Farmworker Awareness Week

Sacramento State’s College Assistance Migrant Program is collecting water bottles, hats, bandanas and other essential items to distribute to migrant workers in recognition of Farmworker Awareness Week. (Sacramento State/Analy Carrillo)

Starting at age 12, Anthony Zamora spent many summer days in the fields and orchards of Northern California, picking grapes and cherries, sweating through layers of clothing, working to exhaustion.

So, Zamora, a first-year Computer Science student at Sacramento State, knows from experience how great the need is among agricultural workers for basic items such as reusable water bottles, socks, hats, bandanas and long-sleeved shirts.

“It’s essential for farmworkers to have these things, and they are not always available,” he said. “The more that we can collect, the better.”

Computer Science student Anthony Zamora.
Computer Science student Anthony Zamora, pictured in front of the Cesar Chavez memorial tree outside of the CAMP offices at River Front Center, has picked cherries and grapes in the summertime since childhood. (Photo courtesy Lilia Contreras Ramirez/CAMP)

This week, Sac State’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) is collecting such items to distribute to migrant workers as part of the campus’s recognition of Farmworker Awareness Week. CAMP is a federally funded program at Sac State that provides support to students who, like Zamora, are children of migrant workers.

The Farmworkers Basic Needs Drive will accept donations through Friday at Sac State’s CAMP offices as well as the Serna Center, Multi-Cultural Center, PRIDE Center, MLK Center, APIDA Center and Career Center.

“Farmworkers are the backbone of this country. They put food on our tables. They drive the economy,” said Lilia Contreras Ramirez, CAMP’s coordinator.

In many cases, their pay is based on the quantity of fruits and vegetables they gather during their shifts.

“Most of their money goes to paying bills and providing for their families,” said Ramirez. “They don’t necessarily have money to buy items to protect themselves in the fields.”

Many farmworkers travel from state to state, harvesting produce year-round regardless of weather. In Northern California, most of the work occurs in the summer months, Contreras said.

Items requested during the CAMP drive will help workers endure long shifts, mostly in sweltering heat. Caps, hats and bandanas help protect their skin from sunburn, dust and debris. So do long sleeves, which workers wear throughout the year.

“They go through essential items very quickly,” said Contreras. Water is not always readily available, so filling insulated bottles helps them stay hydrated.

Although activists like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta helped improve conditions for farmworkers, “we still have a long way to go,” she said.

Zamora, who grew up in Lodi, remembers waking before dawn on summer mornings to get ready to pick cherries alongside his parents and siblings.

“My eyes were barely open when we got into the fields,” he said. “We would fill boxes as fast as we could, so that we could make as much money as possible.”

“The heat was hard to tolerate,” Zamora said. “Never have I sweated so much in my life.”

At the end of workdays that often stretched to 10 hours, he said, his body was achy and tired.

Zamora’s family members still work in the fields to support themselves. Anthony decided to attend college to strive for a brighter future.

Computer science classes are difficult, he said, and he sometimes has trouble juggling his many responsibilities.

“But I’m not going to give up,” Zamora. “My parents are still working in the fields. Once I complete my education and have a career, I plan on giving back to them.”

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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