Blueberry Rakers' Center provides services to migrant farm workers


HARRINGTON - For over 10 years, non-profit, state and federal agencies partner to host the Rakers' Center in Washington County during peak blueberry picking season.

"Families come in, there's an intake process, and they basically express the needs they have, what kind of services they're looking for," said Jorge Acero, a migrant farm worker monitor advocate with the Maine Department of Labor.

Here, migrant farm workers and their families can access medical care, clothing, a food pantry, and even a school.

"Let's say they've been traveling up the east coast for the last couple months, starting maybe in Florida, traveling up to New Jersey," said David Fisk, state director for the Maine Migrant Education Program. "A lot of schools down there start in middle of August, they could be missing really key times for their instructional time, so it's important for us to compensate for that educational disruption."

Many of the workers that have arrived over the past few days were told that their work would start as soon as they got there. With the blueberry harvest now pushed back a week by many local growers, these services become all the more helpful while workers wait for that first paycheck.

"Local growers have pushed back their harvest dates, so imagine basically driving 2,000 or 3,000 miles and arriving and finding that the work isn't ready yet," said Acero.

More workers will arrive later in the week. The ones that are already here are now trying to keep busy.

"Well we go out there and see if we can find something to do, if not we gotta wait til we get started in our camp," said Juan Guajardo, a migrant farm worker from Texas.

"In that sense, we are then here to basically provide whatever services we can in the meantime," said Acero.

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