The Importance of Extension Farmworker Safety and Health With Roberto Rosales
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Q & A with Roberto Rosales a Farmworker Safety and Health Program Coordinator
Farmworker Safety and Health is a very important part of Extension and there is a need for more agents like Roberto Rosales. To highlight the importance of this job we did a q and a with Roberto Rosales. The questions will be in black and Roberto Rosales’ responses will be in red.
We first asked Roberto Rosales to tell us a little bit about himself:
“I was raised in a migrant farmworker household up until the age of 11. This means that growing up, my family and I moved periodically throughout the year across the Southeastern part of the United States to harvest crops, primarily tomatoes. We would travel between Immokalee, Florida, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and depending on the crops of any given year we would stay in different states in between. After 11, my family decided to leave agriculture and seek permanent residency on the ESVA. I went on to get a dual undergraduate degree from Virginia Wesleyan College in Communications with a focus on Journalism and Spanish. Following graduation, I spent several years in the medical field primarily working with agriculture and the Spanish-speaking community. Both my professional and personal experience have prepared me for my appointment with the Farmworker Health and Safety Education program at N.C. Cooperative Extension.”
Then we asked about his job and how he came to hold this position.
“I started with the Farmworker Health and Safety Education program at N.C. Cooperative Extension as a program educator in 2018. Before this, I worked in the medical field as an outreach worker and did a brief stint as an Algebra teacher in Virginia. These appointments prepared me for my position with the farmworker program. Since then, I have moved up as the program coordinator, in this role I’m leading a team of educators across the state to implement the program. The program’s primary focus is to bridge communication in the agriculture community, we do this by conducting safety training and being a liaison between farms and support services.”
Everyone in extension will tell you that every day is different and that is also true for Roberto. When asked what the average day-to-day of his job is like, he answered.
“Every day is different, but on a very active day, I might have a farmworker safety training session at 8 a.m. in Wilson, then go to the office and take one or two partners meetings to continue working on one of the many projects, such as broadband inclusion with the NC Agriculture Digital Alliance or Spanish Pesticide School, and sometimes go to another farm later in the afternoon to conduct another training.”
We know that farmworkers are in danger every day because of using heavy machinery and being exposed to chemicals. Roberto explained the importance of Farmworker health and safety as follows:
“Agriculture is always in the category of the most dangerous jobs in the world. The reason being that people are exposed to many risk factors, some that are manageable but some that are not. Workers can be exposed to one or all risk factors at once such as extreme weather conditions, chemicals, heavy machinery, and tools, to name a few. In order, to create a healthier and safer work environment, it is important to have everyone on the same page about the importance of everyone doing their part and this includes workers, as well as employers. The training we offer helps create these environments through dialog and interactive sessions to help workers retain the information. We don’t want farms to lose workers to injuries or fatal accidents, so preventive education can help reduce risk factors.”
As mentioned before, more students need to pursue this career field. We asked Roberto Rosales for any advice for students who are interested in farmworker health and safety.
“The best way to learn more is to ask questions and get engaged with programs that work directly with this community. There are always groups that are seeking volunteers for farmworker events.”
- Student action with Farmworkers in Durham has internship programs that get college students to work with some of these agencies in education, legal, or health.
- Connect with your local county extension office
- Look up “farmworkers in NC” on youtube
- Connect with an educator for the Farmworker Health and Safety Education program
Lastly, we asked Roberto if he had any last thoughts and he stated something very important.
“It is important to realize that farmworkers are not all the same and can vary in barriers depending if they are migrant, seasonal, or H2A workers. Some of these external barriers can affect a worker’s productivity, such as healthcare access, education, immigrant policy, housing, wages, and the list goes on.”
Thank you to Roberto Rosales for his time and for sharing his knowledge with us. For more information regarding Farmworker Safety and Health please visit the NC State Extension Farm Safety & Health