The Work of ¡Salud!, Talking with Leda Garside
In 1992, Leda Garside began working with Tuality Healthcare. She’d worked already for years in Community Health as a Nurse with a Masters’ degree, and sought a position with Tuality with the hopes of connecting more closely to the Latino/a population in Western Oregon. She “knew they were there,” as she put it. “But, where?” Oregon’s agricultural industry depends on the work of innumerable farm and vineyard workers, many of whom happen to also be Latino/a, and Hispanic, but, in many ways, outside the fields the people are largely unseen by the general public.
The reality of life for many Hispanic farm and vineyard workers in the United States includes reduced access or lack of access to health care, reduced access to education, and general difficulty connecting to resources that many of the rest of us take for granted. Basic workers’ rights are also irrelevant to any agricultural workers at the level of legislation. While other forms of labor in the United States are legally regulated to demand minimum wage, eligibility of certain benefits, over-time pay, and mandatory work breaks, current laws require only that farm and vineyard workers be paid minimum wage. Breaks, over-time, and other benefits are not mandated. Additionally, for those working in agriculture without federal documentation, the possibility of filing complaint for situations like injury on the job, as an example, is unlikely.
At exactly the same time, agriculture is one of the major industries supporting the United States economy at large, and dominates economic concerns in certain portions of the United States. In this way, those that work the fields, be they Latino/a, Hispanic, or otherwise, are the people that ensure the success of one of the nations foundational economies.
Beginning with her work for Tuality, Garside begin investing in learning more about Occupational Health, and Migrant Health. As she explained, Migrant Health is not a topic generally taught in nursing programs, and yet it carries its very own particular needs for care. Initially, her work was centered completely within Tuality walls. But, by 1992, the beginning of her time with the company, a small program offering support for vineyards workers had already been started. The original program idea was instigated by conversations held between two Tuality Community Hospital doctors, with two Willamette vineyard owners. Together, Laurence Hornick and Jim Ratcliff of Tuality developed the idea with Nancy Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards, and Steve Voylsteke of Oak Knoll Winery, generating the notion that they’d take program seed money given by Tuality and add to it with a wine auction event aimed at raising funds. The plan was to create a healthcare program specifically for vineyards workers. ¡Salud! was born. Within the first year, other wineries became integral to making the program work, with the auction site being moved to Domaine Drouhin, while both Paul Hart of Rex Hill Wines, along with Dr. Robert Gross of Cooper Mountain Wine became part of developing the program. Within the first year, eighteen area wineries donated to the auction event, and within two years the basic model for ¡Salud! was put into place.
In 1997, !Salud! had grown enough they wanted to hire someone specifically to help direct, and also develop the program. Enter Leda Garside. Leda had already been teaching CPR within the original ¡Salud! program model, and had the advantage of having already begun connecting to local agricultural communities through community based occupational health development. She was working with people that harvested rhubarb for Flavorland Foods. At times, Garside explains, the Flavorland Foods program included giving 150 to 200 physicals to agricultural workers per day. She also was bilingual in Spanish and English. Through connecting to the agricultural workers with Flavorland Foods, Garside began to hear more about their particular stories, and those of their families, learning about the history of agricultural work through the area, and of the particular needs of people working in their unique industry. The direct knowledge gained from the experience Garside brought into her work with ¡Salud!
Beginning in 1997, Garside moved the ¡Salud! program to more involved on site work, a mobile clinic brought straight to the vineyards. In the beginning, she would transport a large BBQ tent, and all the medical equipment with her in the back of her vehicle, rebuilding the space with each visit, just to be close enough to reach out directly to the vineyard workers that needed check-ups and care. Her goal was to make the program accessible, while also showing the people the program was for that the healthcare was trustworthy. Eventually, during an outreach visit at a Portland park event, Garside spotted the Adventist Mobile Clinic, housed complete in a large, renovated RV. The Adventist Mobile Clinic was able to offer on site blood work, private space for more involved visits or consultations, and an indoor space for blood pressure work. Connecting with the directors of Adventist, a collaboration was made, and from their the program has continued to expand.
Garside now coordinates a year round, multi-level program offering extensive health and wellness resources to vineyard workers. The one requirement is that you have been “working with la Uva”, the grapes, be it for a day, a week, or many years. As a result, wine makers, and vineyard managers also receive regular check ups from ¡Salud!, having their cholesterol checked there alongside the vines. One winemaker I interviewed explained that the regular blood work done by ¡Salud! led to the discovery of a health anomaly that otherwise could have killed him unexpectedly. Many others have described to me the difference they’ve seen in the overall health of their vineyard community. One of the starkest of stories being a man that worked with a broken leg. He didn’t have access to healthcare, and though his leg hurt, he had to support his family, and didn’t realize the severity of his condition until one of the ¡Salud! Occupational Health volunteers gave him a physical.
¡Salud! includes now too a mobile dental, and vision clinic; Fall vaccinations against both tetanus and flu (both genuine concerns for people working with the vines because of their specific labor demands with metal plus dirt, and a wealth of other people); onsite occupational health work advising on things as simple as the need for eye protection from sun, to stretches that will help back pain; access to follow up care for more developed medical conditions; as well as connections to both child and adult ongoing education. Each of the offerings arise from the needs of the workers themselves, what is making a difference for them, and for their families.
The success of ¡Salud! has depended too upon Garside’s ability to reach out to and connect with the very people the program is serving. Fulgencio made clear to me that ¡Salud!, and Garside in particular, had helped him through the transitions associated with raising his children alone. Estella too let me know how integral to her, and her siblings health and education the program had been. Estella is the first to go to college in her family, thanks partially to the encouragement of Leda Garside. Fulgencio’s children too have gone on to, and one completed, college. Fulgencio’s children, and Estella, both now living lives of success while giving back to their communities.
Talking with Garside herself, she speaks always of her team. Sarah Jaquez, from Centro Cultural, who helps Latino families connect to children’s healthcare. Melissa, who has a Masters in Public Health, and Armando, a graduate in Community Education, both of whom help coordinate aspects of ¡Salud! Mobile Clinic. Cece, who serves as the director of the Tuality Healthcare Foundation and manages fundraising for the program, her daughter, Kate, now volunteering for ¡Salud!. Christina, a Registered Nurse that works directly with clinic patients to talk through test results and coordinate follow up visits, and Gary, the Adventist employee that tells me how much he enjoys driving the Adventist bus specifically to do blood tests at mobile clinics with ¡Salud!
Interviewing employees, vineyard and winery owners, and patients of ¡Salud! it is clear how important Garside’s work has been to them, and to the community at large. But asking Garside herself about her work she tells me this, “Getting to know this population of vineyard workers… I am privileged to know these people. I have been lucky enough to get to know them, to know their families, to make a more personal connection. This is special.”
In 2011 alone, ¡Salud! registered 3648 workers and families with the program, and documented more than 7000 individual medical and dental care encounters. The program reaches, on average, more than 40% of the vineyard worker population in the Willamette Valley.
Since the economic crisis of 2008, ¡Salud! has suffered financial cut backs, and has been having to reduce the services they are able to provide. The ¡Salud! Auction serves as both a large community event that many enjoy, as well as the primary fund raiser for the ¡Salud! Mobile Clinic. This year the Auction will take place November 9 and 10th at Domaine Drouhin Oregon. ¡Salud! also depends upon private donations.
To purchase tickets to the Auction: http://www.saludauction.org/auction/the-oregon-pinot-noir-auction/purchase-tickets/
To donate to ¡Salud!: https://tualityhealth.ejoinme.org/MyPages/SaludDonationPage/tabid/187963/Default.aspx
Thank you most especially to Leda Garside for taking the time to talk with me.
Thank you to Christina, Gary, Sarah, Melissa, Armando, Cece, Kate, Estella, and Fulgencio.
Thank you to Sheila Nicholas, to Harry Peterson-Nedry, to Steve Doerner, and Rollin Soles.
Thank you to William Allen.
Thank you to Katherine Yelle.
To read more on the history of ¡Salud! read Oregon Wine Press’s article on the organization, written by Karl Klooster: http://oregonwinepress.com/article?articleTitle=salute-to-iexcl-salud!–1317235589–976–features
To read more about ¡Salud! and Adventist’s work together, and the barriers to care faced by vineyard workers, read Katherine Cole’s article in The Oregonian: http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2011/08/health_care_comes_to_vineyard.html
To read more on the lived reality of immigrants moving into the Northwest United States, read the following report detailing the results of interviews done with Immigrants, primarily moving into Washington: http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/2006-0214_In-Our-Own-Words.pdf
Working La Uva 1: A Life in Wine, Meeting Fulgencio: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/08/09/working-la-uva-1-a-life-in-wine-meeting-fulgencio/
Working La Uva 2: Majoring in Community Health, Talking to Estella: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/08/10/working-la-uva-2-majoring-in-community-health-talking-to-estella/
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