“Through his role with FALCON, Francisco is the glue that keeps
the farmworker-serving agencies together and focused,” said
Eugenio Mollo, managing attorney at Advocates for Basic
Legal Equality (ABLE) and FALCON vice chairman. “He is very
effective at bringing people – both farmworkers and growers –
together to find solutions. He motivates FALCON member agencies
by leading with compassion and by example. Francisco is a
tireless leader, and I wish him all the best in his retirement
“I would hope it (the award) was for that time and energy I have
invested in my job, and in trying to provide leadership and
collaboration to those many folks involved with FALCON, our
interagency coalition,” said Espinoza, who has worked with the
Horticulture Labor Education Program with the Ohio State
University Extension since its inception in 1996.
“I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t too wildly surprised
to get a FALCON Harvest Award because I am retiring this coming
November, and you either get a watch or a kick in the pants,
right?” he quipped.
More than 300
migrant farmworkers and their families attended Farmworker
Appreciation Day at
Walsh Park, 754 Morrison St., Fremont,
on Saturday, Aug. 9. The annual summer event seeks to
honor farmworkers in Northwest Ohio with a free, family-friendly
event that includes games, food, music, prizes, and
Once he retires, Espinoza plans to give more attention to his
personal passions of
music, creative writing, and reading. He wants to start
gardening at home and devote more time to playing the guitar.
“I’m kind of a workaholic, so don’t be surprised if I get into
some other employment or project dealing with Hispanics and
farmworkers,” he said.
Espinoza’s role with the OSU Extension started as a program
assistant when the agency received a grant to start the farm
labor relations program to help address issues involving
agricultural employers and migrant farm workers.
“My program started within the farmworker/advocate position, and
there was a producer role filled by a grower and employer of
Hispanic labor. When he left, I covered both employer and
employee perspectives,” Espinoza explained. “Believe it or not,
that expanded job was, and still is, a rewarding experience.
Ohio State University Extension is about information and
education, so I work with stakeholders in agriculture:
farmworker, growers, extension agricultural personnel, and
advocates and agencies that work toward identifying and
addressing issues in Ohio agriculture. The only real limitations
are those of time and energy, like everyone else!”
Espinoza, 67, started his career working with farmworkers
in the late 1960s as a recruiter, translator and social worker
for Migrant Head Start in Northwest Ohio. He also has
worked in alternative education settings in adult education, and
state and federal farmworker programs, including the Farm
Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).
Espinoza was born in Raymondville, Texas, in the Rio Grande
Valley region, and was raised in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio.
His parents migrated from Texas, to Florida, to Tennessee, to
Michigan, and finally settled in Ohio in 1952, when his father
found work at the General Motors foundry in Defiance.
Espinoza graduated from
School and attended Bowling Green State University while
working full-time at the Campbell’s Soup factory in Napoleon. He
graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and became a
“This was a milestone for a farmworker and a major step towards
stability and “The American Dream” to finally, have full-time
employment as an upgrade from the beating hot sun and harsh
field work, said Mollo in presenting the award “for his lifetime
dedication as an achiever, educator, advocate, mentor and
partner to the agricultural community, growers and migrant
seasonal farmworkers of Northwest Ohio.”
“I came from farmworkers, was raised in Northwest Ohio tomato
country, and have continued to recognize and respect my
connection to Mexican and migrant culture,” said Espinoza, now a
Toledo resident for 20-plus years and father of three grown
children: Justin, Trajan, and Dorian.
The mission statement of FALCON explains their work well:
committed to serving Ohio’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers and
agricultural employers by encouraging and supporting the dignity
of productive work, healthful working and living environments,
educational, networking, legal assistance, and spiritual
outreach. Most of the FALCON collaborative network’s actual work
focuses on the personal and social service needs of migrant
Migrant Head Start, adult education, ESL, health clinics,
employment and consumer education, emergency and support
services all are provided for workers. FALCON agencies also
network with growers and employers to develop in-camp programs
and provide information, outreach, and referral regarding
programs and services.
Other Harvest Award winners included:
employee and an advocate for the farmworker community. Her
own experience growing up in a farmworker family fueled her
desire to help people in similar situations. After obtaining
her associate degree in social work, she joined PathStone
seeking to work directly with the farmworker community
Mariana Jazmin García-Guzmán,
a farmworker at
Liskai who uses her voice to advocate for her family and
other workers at the camp to ensure that their rights are
protected. After graduating high school and giving birth to
her daughter, Natalia, Mariana continues working hard in
both of her jobs.
of Willoway Nurseries, Inc.,
which provides employment for more than 200 farm workers.
Emily has shown interest and commitment to helping identify
some of the issues in Ohio agriculture. She is a member of
the Ohio Department of Health committee reviewing the
rules for agricultural labor camps.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the agency responsible for licensing agricultural labor
camps, the investigation of unlicensed camps, and the
investigation of reported violations in licensed camps,
among other responsibilities. This year ODH has spearhead
the Rules committee in order to help improve the conditions
of the labor camps in Ohio and protect the health and safety
of the farmworkers.