Public-private partnership to launch Ventura County farmworker housing study By John Krist— John Krist is former chief executive officer of Farm Bureau of Ventura County and a member of the HFW! Board of Directors. A unique partnership of housing advocates and local government agencies this month will launch the first phase of a landmark study of Ventura County’s farmworker community and its housing needs. The Ventura County Farmworker Housing Study and Action Plan is coordinated by the County of Ventura, in partnership with the nonprofit advocacy organization House Farm Workers! (HFW!) and all 10 county cities. The project fulfills the following commitment made by the Board of Supervisors in its 2021 adoption of the Housing Element of the County General Plan: “The County, working with advocacy groups, agricultural organizations and Ventura County cities, will: (1) take on a coordinating role to seek funding for, and to implement, a countywide survey of farmworkers, employers, and housing providers to further define housing conditions, needs and barriers to farmworker housing; and, (2) utilize the survey results to develop targeted programs and strategies to address the identified housing needs of farmworkers and to support agricultural businesses with a stable and healthy workforce.” It’s been more than 20 years since the last such study was conducted. In addition to the employer survey, the study will include a survey of farmworkers, conducted via one-on-one interviews by multilingual outreach staff with the Ventura County Farmworker Resource Program. The online employer survey will begin first, on Feb. 24, when a link will be emailed to employers by Farm Bureau of Ventura County, the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office and HFW! The in-person employee survey will be conducted between March and June. The project is guided by an Advisory Council comprising representatives of numerous community-based organizations, agricultural business interests, and public agencies. The principal project consultant is BAE Urban Economics. Funding sources include County, local cities, Ventura County Transportation Commission, HFW!, the Southern California Association of Governments, and the California Department of Housing and Community Development. “Gathering data on farmworker housing is the first step to directing resources to Ventura County cities and stakeholders,” said Maureen McGuire, chief executive officer of Farm Bureau of Ventura County. “We need to ensure employees see the agricultural industry and our region as a place their families can thrive. The farmworker housing survey will benefit farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers for years to come by informing investment in the right places and types of housing.” Gabrielle Vignone, HFW!’s executive director, is serving as project manager. She is also on the project Coordination Committee with County of Ventura Planning Director Dave Ward; local growers Debbie Brokaw Jackson, consultant, and Ellen Brokaw, an HFW! board member; consultant Jennifer Coile; and County Planning Manager Ruchita Kadakia. Completion of the surveys and data-gathering, which comprise the first phase of the study, are anticipated by the end of this year. For more information, visit the County’s project website at https://vcrma.org/en/vc-farmworker-housing-study or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.