Ella Ochoa, Farmworker to Advocate

In honor of National Farmworker Awareness Week 2012, a good friend and always farmworker advocate deserves recognition.  Farmworker advocates across the country need no introduction to Ella Ochoa of North Platte, Nebraska, but for everyone else just know she is a true hero and inspiration!

Ella grew up as a migrant farmworker picking crops in many states.  As an adult she focused on helping farmworkers through association with the Iowa Migrant Action Program, Nebraska Department of Labor Migrant Program, Illinois Migrant Council, North Dakota Migrant Program, the Texas Migrant Council, the National Council de la Raza, and the NAF Multicultural Human Development Corporation of Nebraska, from which she retired.

Over the years Ella has received several prestigious awards and honors.  Ella received the Mexican Othli Award in 1997.  The Ohtli Award is the Mexican government’s highest honor for a civilian living outside of Mexico who has devoted part of his/her life and professional activities to “forging a new path” abroad for their countrymen and women.  She has also been named the Nebraska Commission on the Status of Women “Woman of the Year” as well recipient of the MAFO – A National Partnership of Farmworker and Rural Organizations “MAFO Lifetime Achievement Award.”  A distinctive honor was being asked by and being a member of President Clinton’s delegation to Bolivia for a national celebration during his presidency.

In 2000 Ella was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Since then her role has expanded to include advocating for the rights of the disabled.  She has been named to the Nebraska Advocacy Services, Inc., Citizen Advocacy Committee and as an Advocate-At-Large to the Nebraska Minority Health Council.

Ella has been sought as a speaker for farmworker, women, minority, and disability related events.  In 2009 she was the Nebraska subject of the 50 in 52 Journey.  50 in 52 means all fifty states, plus Washington D.C., were visited over the 52 weeks in 2009 to find America’s problem solvers and idea generators. Ella’s interview by Dafna Michaelson can be found in two places:  Dafna’s print blog is here and on the 50in52journey YouTube channel.

Before sending you off to see the video, I’ll end by saying Ella is a great friend, wonderful inspiration, and truly worthy of being remembered during this and every National Farmworker Awareness Week.