FILE — Agricultural workers harvest greens in the Salinas Valley. Monterey County is planning to create a farmworker resource center in Greenfield. (Sean Roney)

GREENFIELD — The drive for Greenfield residents seeking county resources will be shortened with the creation of a farmworker resource center.

Monterey County Board of Supervisors approved the allocation of $250,000 on Feb. 1 for the creation of the center in Greenfield. The county allocation is expected to be matched by Assembly Bill 941’s three-to-one state contribution to ensure the county has $1 million as seed money for the project.

The amount was determined after supervisors directed Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales to coordinate with the county health department, social services department and the United Way to figure out the cost and feasibility of such a center.

District 3 Supervisor Chris Lopez, who oversees South Monterey County, said the goal would be to have the center ready within a year, pending logistics. For now, Monterey County has the distinction of being one of the first in the state to utilize the AB 941 funding.

“We’re early out of the gate, but that’s what we want to be, first in line to be sure our folks get taken care of,” Lopez said.

Lopez credited State Assemblymember Robert Rivas with being instrumental in getting AB 941 passed, and said the county is now working with the state to figure out what the process looks like for getting a center started in Greenfield.

One of the largest hurdles for the center is the real estate quandary. 

“The biggest need is to identify a location, and that’s always been a struggle here in South County,” Lopez said. “We have buildings that are utilized well, but we lack that basic infrastructure in the form of an edifice. Hopefully soon we’ll have that defined, and once that’s done, things will move quickly.”

Currently, the county has a team looking at options, from renting existing buildings to constructing a new one, the decision of which will be brought back to the supervisors.

With $1 million in seed funds to start the center, Lopez said the county wouldn’t incur an ongoing cost of operations, as staffing was expected to be redirected from other offices to have scheduled or rotating hours in Greenfield. 

By bringing staff and services to Greenfield, it would mean farmworkers wouldn’t have to deal with the transportation issues surrounding driving to King City or as far as Salinas.

“We wanted to focus on their needs,” Lopez said about serving Greenfield residents. “You’re reducing the travel time for the client.”

Lopez added that with transportation times for clients freed up, it could lead to savings among county operations, which could justify spending some additional revenue or redirecting those savings to further serving Greenfield clients.

“Leading with those savings and servicing the community where they live are the two key goals out of the gate,” he said.

Lopez explained part of the goals of AB 941 require counties to work with nonprofits, and that among those would be groups that could partner with the county to help serve speakers of indigenous languages in addition to English and Spanish.

The process is still in early planning stages, but Lopez said ideally he would like to see such services as behavioral health, unemployment and housing options at the new center.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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