Wally Burge, from Kinston Community Health Center (KCHC), was a brand-new outreach worker when he began talking with Mr. Rob Hill, co-owner of Tull Hill Farms, back in January. He wanted to introduce himself and make sure Hill was aware of the health care services available to his workers through KCHC.
Tull Hill Farms is one of the largest in Lenoir County in both production and the number of H-2A farmworkers employed. “From day one Rob and his staff were very open to utilizing our services,” Wally shared. “There is not another grower in the area that we serve that I have met who is more proactive than Rob Hill in making sure that his farmworkers are able to access quality health care. Rob wisely knows that a healthy and happy farmworker is a productive farmworker.”
Burge initially provided testing to arriving workers. He made the process fast and efficient. He carried this efficiency into his work doing health screenings with a mobile unit, building relationships with growers and farmworkers alike, and now with vaccinations.
Once farmworkers became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in early March, Hill was the first grower who approached Burge about making sure his workers had access to the vaccine. “Hill not only sent us his H-2A farmworkers to get vaccinated,” said Burge, “but he also sent us many of his full-time year-round employees.”
The first time Hill took his workers in, he and his family got vaccinated alongside them. “I never told them they had to get vaccinated,” explained Hill. “Just that they had an appointment. Now we’ve got 98 workers vaccinated and 100% acceptance. We even got our second shots together!”
Many of the same workers have been coming back to Tull Hill Farm year after year, some of them for 20 years now. “A lot of them are family to us,” he says, “not just workers, but family.”
“In my opinion,” said Burge, “Tull Hill Farms is a wonderful model of how growers and local health care centers can partner to make quality health care accessible to farmworkers.”
Hill shared that “it isn’t easy for the farmer to stop what he’s doing, rearrange everything during the week, to make it happen. The whole Kinston staff has been fantastic and made it easy and efficient. And they have been caring to the workers.” Hill explained that it’s Burge’s ability to make the process smooth that has led to his success vaccinating his workers. “Offering services is one thing,” he said, “offering services that are convenient to farmers and their needs is super important. You just can’t make it work out otherwise.”