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Remembering Don Villarejo

Remembering Don Villarejo

Last month, researcher, professor, and farmworker health advocate Don Villarejo passed away. Villarejo was a founder of the California Institute for Rural Studies, an important nonprofit research organization, as well as a founder of the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at the University of California, Davis, and a founder of the California Agrarian Action Project, now the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. His research has been critical to Migrant Clinicians Network for the development and focus of efforts to improve the health and safety of farmworkers.

“He was one of the first to do major research on farmworkers,” noted Deliana Garcia, Migrant Clinicians Network’s Director of International Projects and Emerging Issues. “The quantitative and analytic work that he did about farmworkers, their numbers, their health, the conditions in which they worked and lived, gave us that standing where we could speak not just from the qualitative and narrative perspective -- from what we see and hear that people are experiencing in the fields -- but also from the data that backs those experiences up.”

Villarejo’s work, which included an early agricultural worker health survey in California and year-over-year data over his long career, formed a vibrant picture of the day-to-day experiences of farmworkers in California and was used by health and safety agencies and advocacy groups alike. 

“His work kept farmworkers in the public eye,” Garcia said. “Don was deeply engaged, fully committed to his community and to farmworkers, and he really kept that at the heart of everything he did.” 

The California Institute for Rural Studies held a virtual memorial for Villarejo which is now available for viewing on CIRS’s homepage:


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