Jami Haynes hasn’t traveled much, aside from a trip to Kansas when she was 2.
For years, the Schoharie County native has dreamed of touring the U.S., but plans never came through and she couldn’t find somebody to go with her.
All that has changed now as the 21-year-old early childhood education major prepares to embark on an 11-week journey by bicycle from Schoharie County all the way to San Francisco.
Her boyfriend, Caleb Grippin of Knox, and her younger sister, Jena, decided to come along on the roughly 4,200-mile trek. They’ll update an online journal throughout the trip and meet with the media in different states.
“It’s something I’ve been trying to do year after year. This year, I was finally, like, ‘It’s going to happen,’ ” Haynes said.
An avid hiker, Haynes never lacked the motivation to venture out into the countryside. What she really needed was a cause, and she found that last year when she learned about the Harvest of Hope Foundation during her studies at SUNY-Oneonta.
“When I heard about this cause, I decided that’s how I was going to make it happen. It’s so exciting,” Haynes said.
She’ll be promoting the work of the Harvest of Hope Foundation and trying to raise some money for the organization, which provides financial support and other assistance to migrant workers and their families.
Despite living in a heavily agricultural community, Haynes said she wasn’t really aware of the issues that face migrant workers that harvest tons of crops each year — labor that many local workers aren’t interested in doing.
“Learning about what they do for us, my whole perspective changed on immigration. They do the work that a lot of Americans would not do, so I think it’s important that they are healthy and get what they need and that we support them as much as we can,” Haynes said.
Since its creation in 1997, Harvest of Hope Foundation has distributed about $1 million in aid to migrant laborers and their families.
The nonprofit’s Web site is www.harvestofhope.net.
Among its activities, the nonprofit collects gently-used shoes and sneakers for migrant workers, who often arrive to work on farms with few supplies, said Phil Kellerman, the organization’s founder.
Kellerman said some of the workers enter the country legally, some don’t, but all are in the fields trying to help their families survive.
“Many are single males, some females, from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras. There’s no ability to come here legally, but there’s no work [at home] — they’re starving over in their home country,” Kellerman said.
The foundation has funded prescriptions, food, clothing, legal costs, housing, rent, transportation and vehicle repairs.
Kellerman said migrant workers face a challenging environment on their quest to survive — it’s not a 9-to-5 job in a single location.
They’ll harvest tons of blueberries from northern Florida during a six-week growing season before heading to North Carolina, New Jersey and Michigan.
Their work brings many foods to grocery stores, including tomatoes, strawberries, watermelons, beets, oranges, sugar and other staples.
There are an estimated 65,000 children who were brought to the U.S. by migrant workers who didn’t want to separate from their loved ones.
None of them are able to receive financial aid because they are not citizens, but Harvest of Hope Foundation dedicates funding to help the youths learn.
Sometimes, families need help paying for a funeral, and the organization helps out in those situations too.
In addition to accepting direct donations, the organization also operates an eBay page, selling historic memorabilia and presidential-campaign souvenirs.
Getting help from a pair of Schoharie County sisters planning a monumental bicycle ride is a new form of help for the organization, Kellerman said.
“Any publicity to help the foundation would be great,” he said.
Kellerman said the Haynes’ plans also demonstrate that the foundation is having an impact because it has motivated two college students, both previously unaware of the plight of migrant workers, to try to help.
“We’re excited for them. I think we’ll create some awareness and funds for the foundation,” Kellerman said.
PRACTICE AND PLANNING
The Haynes sisters have been taking bicycle rides — 40- to 60-mile trips — in preparation for the journey. They began training back in March.
A friend of Kellerman is loaning them touring bikes with trailers to pull their gear behind.
The plan is to accomplish 60 to 80 miles each day, with days off in between. The trip will require camping out when possible, and staying with friends and relatives along the way.
The presence of her boyfriend and her sister will help with concerns for security, Jami Haynes said.
Safety, she said, “comes down to the planning.”
She said she expects to keep in touch with family as well as update the online journal while meeting with media when possible — all elements of staying on the radar and ensuring a safe trip.
“We’ll be meeting with media along the way and I think there will be people that will have their eyes out for us,” Haynes said.
They’ll have GPS trackers on them and cans of pepper spray, just in case.
For Haynes, who has completed more than 36 Adirondack high peak climbs in her quest for Adirondack 46er status, the daunting trip will lead to breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
“For me, the most I’m excited for is to see Colorado and see the mountains. I hike all the time in the Adirondacks, I love the mountains,” she said.
But there’s more to the west than beautiful mountains — which also entail some serious uphill travel.
Haynes said she’s unsure what it will be like bicycling through miles of desert either.
“Once we get out west we’ll go right through the Rockies, so I think that’s going to be probably the toughest part. And we’re going through the desert in Utah.”
The trio will be recounting their travels online on the Web at www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1&page_id=322590&v=V. A guest book is on the site.
The trio is planning to embark early on Tuesday and arrive in San Francisco some time in August.
“It seemed unreal that it was actually happening. I’m nervous about some of the things, but we’ve been planning so much we’re ready to go,” she said.