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Groups work to get water and other supplies to farmworkers who are toiling in the summer heat

Farmworkers gather around a parked truck filled with clothing, water and other items donated or purchased with funds raised to support those who toil in Idaho’s fields. This first stop near Bruneau was one of several on a recent Friday afternoon.
Murphy Woodhouse
/
Boise State Public Radio
Farmworkers gather around a parked truck filled with clothing, water and other items donated or purchased with funds raised to support those who toil in Idaho’s fields. This first stop near Bruneau was one of several on a recent Friday afternoon.

On a recent Friday, Alejandra Hernandez was parked in the shade along the highway a few miles from Bruneau, a southwest Idaho farm town. She was helping hand out clothing, water and sports drinks, one of several stops that afternoon.

The clothes came from a local donor, but the drinks were purchased with funds raised by the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance. The group Hernandez founded – Latinx Farmworkers of Southern Idaho – is a part of the alliance.

Farmworker Angelica Gallardo came to pick things up for herself and colleagues.

“The heat came late, and didn’t last long,” she said, referring to the recent streak of scorching temperatures. “But yeah, it was hot.”

Farmworkers Angelica Gallardo, left, and Esperanza Raya look through donated clothing and other items at a recent dropoff near Bruneau, Idaho.
Murphy Woodhouse
/
Boise State Public Radio
Farmworkers Angelica Gallardo, left, and Esperanza Raya look through donated clothing and other items at a recent dropoff near Bruneau, Idaho.

Shifts where she works start early in the morning and end by the early afternoon, so workers can better endure the heat, she said.

“I think a lot of people don't know what it feels like to be in the fields at like [noon],” Hernandez said. “And I know we all complain about our cars being hot or whatever, but these people are out here for hours. When we have wildfires, they're working with the extreme smoke.”

Idaho does not have laws to protect farmworkers from the heat, though neighboring Washington and Oregon do. A state lawmaker from Idaho recently told the Idaho Statesman that there are no plans to explore such legislation.

Farmworkers look through donated clothing and other items at a farm near Bruneau, Idaho.
Murphy Woodhouse
/
Boise State Public Radio
Farmworkers look through donated clothing and other items at a farm near Bruneau, Idaho.

Irene Ruiz, one of the alliance’s co-founders, said fundraising this year has been lower than in the previous two years. The summer’s mild start is a possible explanation, she added.

“I do think that people tend to donate more when they feel [the heat],” she said, adding later that they intend to carry on with the effort as long as they can.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As Boise State Public Radio's Mountain West News Bureau reporter, I try to leverage my past experience as a wildland firefighter to provide listeners with informed coverage of a number of key issues in wildland fire. I’m especially interested in efforts to improve the famously challenging and dangerous working conditions on the fireline.
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