I visited with the folks from the Northeastern Kentucky Migrant Education Center last week. They were in town trying to reach out to migrant workers and their families to explain what services they offer. This got me to thinking just how many migrant farm workers there still are here in the county during the growing season.
It used to be a fairly large group as they were the only folks that could be enticed into helping grow and harvest burley tobacco. But tobacco has peaked and the economy has sent many back home.
I know several farmers still employ a few migrant workers to help with various chores and upkeep around the farm.
I’ve done soil tests for 17 farmers raising tobacco this year – so that’s at least two dozen farmers growing the crop now, maybe more. Not all of them use migrant labor though. Quite a few have gone back to the days of utilizing family and swapping work.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education’s Migrant Advocate Guidebook, a migrant family’s mobility sometimes causes gaps in a child’s schooling. When these gaps occur, the children may fall behind in core content areas.
The advocates are there to provide support to the children during these situations. Advocates also provide support services to the parents if they need assistance.
An advocate can offer referrals for services related to health, welfare and social needs or provide direct services to the family. Finally, an advocate also can provide learning opportunities for the out-of-school youth (OSY). The advocate maintains contact with OSY. An advocate offers instructional assistance with school enrollment, credit recovery and/or enrollment in general education development (GED) classes.
An advocate also provides supportive services by referrals to local agencies including local agricultural job opportunities and the education of the OSY on basic needs, cooking, taking care of young children and work safety.
The problem we have in the Extension Office is reaching underserved audiences. It’s hard to invite folks in when you don’t have any contact with them. It’s even harder when there’s a language or cultural barrier.
The team from the Northeastern Kentucky Migrant Education Center has already reached out through their contacts by visiting with some local farmers. They also placed fliers in local restaurants, laundry mats, country stores, groceries and other areas that migrants might frequent.
If you know of families or individuals that could benefit from their services, please do not hesitate to contact us and let us know. You can also contact Laura Puente directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.