GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) Migrant workers who toil in the fields to help put food on our tables, working to help their families back home in predominantly Spanish speaking countries, are finding sustenance for the soul from a Greenville restaurateur.
Yordanys Bastardo came from nothing when he moved from the Dominican Republic to eastern Carolina.
Today he is a successful businessman who owns Villa Verde restaurant in Greenville.
Every morning workers at the restaurant load up food that's prepared fresh inside the kitchen.
Bastardo, known simply as "Jay," packs up his food truck, filled with traditional Mexican cuisine, along with ice cold drinks, and heads to the sweet potato fields in Greene County.
Bastardo says, "This is nothing more than God's purpose being fulfilled."
With the support of Julito's in Miami, who sold Bastardo on this idea, and the food truck, he is able to reach out to those in the fields, with funds by the Christian business leaders in the community called C-12.
Bastardo says, "Am I doing this for the migrant workers because they're Latino? Like I am absolutely not. I see a soul in need and we have the means to help, we're just going to do."
Out in the fields, the workers bring their buckets, used to collect sweet potatoes, to now sit on and have a hot meal before returning to their field .
Bastardo and his crew, Ivan Ramirez and Prudencio Martinez, head to the next farm.
Ramirez used to work in similar fields, but now works along side Bastardo.
Ramirez says, "I've done a lot of migrant work starting at the age of 16 so I feel these guys."
These workers are here legally under a migrant worker program where they're pretty much picking up sweet potatoes all day. Harvesters will be out in the fields for hours, and many times a place where they can get a hot meal, could be miles away.
Bastardo says, "For us to come out here and provide I feel like, we're doing a good part on our behalf, because some of these guys don't bring their lunch or have time, so when we come out and provide a meal for them, it's very humbling."
Prudencio Martinez says, "You realize we're spoiled. We have everything and when see the reality back stage, these people bust their butts, every single day to make sure all of us have food on the table."
According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, migrant workers who are a part of the H-2A program, are required to be paid a minimum of $11.27 per hour.
Many migrants are also given the opportunity to make more with their "per piece" rate. The rate right now for North Carolina is 50 cents per bucket of crop. The "per piece" rate only kicks in if the total amount exceeds their hourly rate of $11.27.
This gives them the opportunity to make more than the set minimum wage.
Despite the fluctuation in pay, what doesn't change is the physical labor that goes into harvesting by hand for hours; and for these sweet potato workers, a free to low cost meal, hits the spot everytime.
Martinez says, "It's not just bringing food, it's building relationships with farm workers."
Sometimes they talk, pray and offer Bibles.
Bastardo says, "This is our church. This is where we do church everyday, not just on Sundays."
He says he's passionate about this because while he's realized the American dream through his hard work, he doesn't believe the migrant workers are afforded the same opportunity -despite the even harder, tougher work they perform.