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.

Kayla Fish

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Kayla joined the ABC 7 & FOX 22 news team in May of 2017. She got into journalism because she loves talking with people, and she's incredibly grateful to share the stories of Mainers throughout the region.

She got her start in broadcasting way back in middle school as a member of a morning announcements TV broadcast club, and her love for the news industry took off from there.

Kayla graduated from Penn State University in 2017 with degrees in broadcast journalism and Spanish. During her time as a student at Penn State, Kayla was an executive producer and reporter for the "Centre County Report", an Emmy award-winning student-run newscast. She studied abroad in Ronda, Spain and traveled to Panama with an international reporting class. Kayla kept busy in college, spending four years working as a student manager in the dining hall.

Kayla grew up in the village of Shawnee-on-Delaware, located in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, so transitioning into life in Vacationland was a piece of cake! A self-described winter fanatic, she loves all things snow related, including hitting the slopes on her snowboard. She also likes hiking, kayaking or doing anything outdoors. She loves meeting new people so if you see her around, be sure to stop and say hi!

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