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Story in Brief

In July of each year, northeast Georgia’s largest vegetable producer employ’s 175 to 225 H-2A visa workers to harvest and process vegetables, including tomatoes, cabbage, squash and peppers. If COVID-19 infections had occurred within these H-2A employees, a significant portion of this $3.5 million in crops could have spoiled in the field because they could not be harvested in time. The grower decided best course of action would be to provide COVID-19 safety awareness training to the arriving H-2A workforce. A collaboration was formed between UGA Rabun County Extension and North Carolina State Extension to deliver this training to the Spanish speaking H2-A workforce. To minimize the potential exposure of the entire workforce to COVID-19 infections, they decided to divide workers into working groups they arrived. This concept would allow small groups of 10-12 employees to work, travel, eat and live as a unit, minimizing the risk of a larger outbreak should someone become ill. The COVID-19 awareness training was designed to adhere to all state and local guidelines. Over a two-day period, 12 one-hour training sessions were delivered to small groups of the H-2A visa workers. A total of 181 workers were trained on safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence provided by the grower indicates he believes the training provided by UGA and NC State Extension made the difference between an expected revenue in excess of $3.5 million in 2020 versus a significant loss due to COVID-19 illness of H-2A employees. To date, the grower reports no COVID-19 cases among the H-2A worker population and contributes this success, in part, to the collaborative efforts of UGA and NC State Extension.