RINGOLD -- The first publicly funded migrant farm worker housing project in rural Franklin County opened its doors to tenants this week.
Ringold Seasonal Farmworker Housing welcomed its first three asparagus workers Thursday.
The 96-bed "bunkhouse"-style project at Road 170 and Ringold Road was started several years ago to address issues related to farm workers camping on state land at Ringold.
Franklin County farmer Jim Middleton's workers were the first to use Ringold's beds. Middleton said he appreciates having the housing option close to his asparagus fields north of Pasco.
Many of his workers live in Pasco, but Middleton said he does have some migrant workers who need housing during the season.
The Ringold complex provides a housing option for some of Middleton's work force, which he said likely will peak at about 70 during asparagus season.
The nonprofit Washington Farm Labor Association owns the buildings and will manage the housing. The Franklin County Farm Bureau owns the land and has leased it to the nonprofit.
The project was paid for by a state Department of Commerce grant and some private money.
Some area landowners opposed the project, expressing concerns with the $3.25 million price tag and the possibility of increased crime in the area.
The complex is meant to help area farmers provide housing for influxes of workers. Labor needs peak during asparagus season, apple harvest and corn detasseling, a labor-intensive process for seed corn growers, said David Manterola, a member of the Washington Farm Labor Association.
And the duplex-style development is in the midst of some of the very fields that need worker housing, he said.
The association met its goal of opening before the asparagus season. Middleton said he expects the season to start up next week, which is when Manterola expects to start seeing more of a demand for beds.
The duplexes themselves are complete. The basketball court is expected to be finished next week, and a couple landscaping tasks are remaining, Manterola said.
The complex accepts people who earn at least $3,000 per year from agriculture, said Lorraine Stephens, general manager for the Washington Farm Labor Association. They also must earn 30 percent of the net area median income, which for one person is $13,650 a year.
Beds are rented at $7 per night. About 10 beds are reserved for workers to rent on their own, Stephens said.
The rest they hope to rent to growers like Middleton for their workers, she said.
Those interested in renting beds should call Ringold's onsite manager Heri Chapula at 509-366-2831. The complex will be closed in the off-season, likely between mid-December and Feb 1.