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How Prides Corner Farm Managed COVID Among Its Migrant Workers

September 27, 2021

On Waterman Road near the Lebanon-Windham town line is Prides Corner Farms, a sprawling 550-acre property that includes 2,000 varieties of roses, shrubs, trees, grasses, ferns, perennials, herbs, vegetables and berries sold to garden centers across the Northeast.

Behind the hustle and bustle of this massive operation are 650 migrant workers, some seasonal and some year-round, from Mexico and Guatemala. To keep this workforce humming along during the pandemic, Prides Corner needed help with vaccinations.

That’s where Hartford HealthCare, Backus Hospital, Windham Hospital and Generations Family Health Center came in. With a tradition of partnering to bring preventive healthcare to this migrant population going back many years, the pandemic was a new challenge.

COVID-19 threatened the viability of the farm’s business — and the lives of those who work there. Many of the migrants work and live close together, which is a recipe for trouble with this highly contagious, potentially deadly virus.

“It was a very critical situation,” said Toni Ruiz, Prides Corner senior human resources manager.

Ruiz said that Generations, which frequently provides care on the property, had vaccinated many workers already, but did not have the ability to vaccinate everyone. That’s when Backus and Windham hospital colleagues offered to help by providing manpower and vaccines on site and in the clinic setting.

“It helped immensely,” said shipping manager Miguel Parra. “In this environment we work close together, and to stay healthy and able to perform on a daily basis was really important.”

With so much vaccine hesitancy, especially within minority populations, people like Parra and Ruiz have played major roles. Because they are trusted in the migrant population, their message about the importance of getting vaccinated resonated. Approximately 80 percent of the migrant workers got shots, Ruiz said, which is well above the nation’s 55 percent vaccination rate.

“I’m really happy I was able to get vaccinated and I’m happy with the results so far,” said migrant worker Christian Anguilano Navarrete against a backdrop of activity with wagons coming in from the fields transporting products to be stacked and then shipped.

Hartford HealthCare continues to try to get more shots in arms, especially in minority populations. Joe Zuzel, manager of community health for Backus and Windham hospitals, said Prides Corner is a great example of community partners like Generations and Hartford HealthCare collaborating to bring care into communities that otherwise might not seek it out.

“This is a great example of two healthcare organizations working together to reach an underserved population, one that might otherwise be ignored or written off,” Zuzel said. “The more we provide this kind of access to care, whether in a pandemic or not, the healthier our community will be.”