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‘Workers aren’t coming in’

hatch chiles being planted

Hatch chile farmers worried about harvest due to pandemic

HATCH, New Mexico — At least one chile farmer in the Hatch Valley said his workers aren’t tending the fields because they’re worried about contracting Covid-19.

“Workers aren’t coming in,” said Sergio Grajeda, who has been in business eight years. “Money’s not coming in. It’s affected us pretty bad.”

Grajeda has more than 100 acres of pecans and chile. He told ABC-7 he normally employs dozens of workers during the harvest, but that they’re not coming into work. On Monday, he had to tend to his own fields.

“They have insurance, but they can’t cover their part,” Grajeda said. “They’d rather just stay away, keep it safe. They want to come to work, they want to, but they’re scared.”

A spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture said the state has not yet received this specific complaint, but has guidance online for farmers and workers to stay safe.

“We haven’t heard of anything come to our attention regarding workers worried about the virus,” said Kristie Garcia, an NMDA spokeswoman. “That doesn’t mean it’s not happening, but if it is, we haven’t heard about it.”