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South Carolina's Migrant Workers Are Eager to be Vaccinated

Ariel Berra (L) and Amancio Palma keep things moving from thinning season to harvest at Titan Farms.
Scott Morgan
South Carolina Public Radio
Ariel Berra (L) and Amancio Palma keep things moving from thinning season to harvest at Titan Farms.

Vaccination rates at some farms in the state are well past 80 percent.

Here's a look at one large operation, where life and work go on in the peach fields.

Surprising though it might seem, social media is misleading about something. In this case, that seasonal ag workers from Mexico are worried about getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
Not so, says Ariel Berra, a field worker at Titan Farms who is now fully vaccinated. Berra says he was eager to get the vaccine after suffering through COVID (as did his wife) back home last off-season.
For Berra, and for Amancio Palma, the director of field operations at the farm and the interpreter between Berra and me, the idea that ag workers don't want the vaccine doesn't make a lot of sense.
What helps at this large-scale peach farm (one of the largest ag operations in South Carolina) is that all the workers here are H2A workers, meaning they have temporary work visas that allow them to be here legally.
That everyone here (all 800-plus of them, by peak harvest time this summer) is covered under H2A is hardly a surprise, given who owns Titan Farms. Chalmers Carr is also the chairman of the South Carolina Farm Bureau’s Labor Committee and president of USA Farmers – an association for growers that utilize the H2A program.
If there is hesitancy among foreign-born workers in the state, it is more likely among undocumented workers who fear they will be discovered and deported by getting vaccinated.
That, for the record, is a myth. Even undocumented workers can get vaccinated in South Carolina. Both the CDC and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control say no one needs to ask for an ID when administering a vaccine.
But that's not an issue at Titan Farms, where the workers are documented and Carr has set up mass vaccination events to help get waiting workers treated before the season peaks in early summer.
Listen to the audio story above to hear more about how growers in the state have responded to the need for vaccination among their seasonal workers.

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.