By Owen Woods | firstname.lastname@example.org
COLORADO Mushroom Farm, located just northeast of Alamosa, has “gone out of business,” according to a U.S. District Court filing from Sept. 7.
Colorado Mushroom Farm, LLC has been subject to a lawsuit from the federal government that alleges the business owes $137,301 to the USDA’s Mushroom Council. You can read our previous coverage here.
The USA v. Colorado Mushroom Farm, LLC filing states that both sides intend to move forward with discovery and resettlement, but in the meantime the shuttering of the business will displace anywhere from 100 to 120 employees.
What it means
Flora Archuleta, the executive director of the SLV Immigrant Resource Center, said the closing of the mushroom farm will displace the farm’s workforce almost entirely. The workers are primarily from Guatemala and have relied on employment at the mushroom farm to stay afloat in the Valley.
According to Archuleta, once the mushroom farm is officially closed people will have to move out of the Valley.
Many of them, she said, have worked there for more than 30 years and have been dealing with bounced checks and unpaid wages as a result of both the COVID-19 period and now the closure of the mushroom farm entirely.
She said some people are sitting on three or four checks that they haven’t been able to properly cash. Some employees are owed vacation time and Archuleta said one individual she is aware of is owed $10,000 in unpaid wages.
During the pandemic’s lockdown period, the Immigration Resource Center helped people with rental and utility assistance. They are still continuing to provide this service to many of the employees of the mushroom farm, while also giving out 50 to 60 boxes of food a month.
“A lot of them don’t have the ability to travel,” she said. There are job openings at Idaho-Pacific in Center and other places around the Valley, but traveling is impossible for many of them, she said.
On top of losing their jobs, a majority of the mushroom farm’s employees are community members who live at Century Mobile Home Park, where residents are going through another upheaval from the sale of it. Archuleta said some of the farm’s employees are working with legal services to try and recover lost wages and are holding on to hope.
Why it matters
Alamosa County Administrator Roni Wisdom said the impact will be most felt by the employees of the farm. She anticipates that many of the workers will seek assistance and basic needs, but the human element to it all is what deserves the most attention.
The farm’s employees are “a whole community,” she said, that make up a vital fabric of the Valley.
The economic impact will be hard to ignore as the farm “provided decent jobs for low-income to moderate-income folks.”
Wisdom said that in 2021 the property tax for the mushroom farm’s main plot of land was $71,900. A “pretty hefty chunk.” How the loss of that property tax will affect the county is yet to be seen.
Phone calls to the mushroom farm were unsuccessful as the phone numbers appear to have been disconnected.
Alamosa Citizen has been unable to reach the defendant in the case, Jaspreet Nanda. The Citizen spoke briefly with his attorney, James Scherer, who said he was unable to comment on the matter.
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