"The water, the light, the trailer rental space. My son-in-law works short hours so it's difficult to make our payments," she says through a translator.
Three years ago Lakeside Foods purchased about 20 trailers to accommodate a small portion of its workers. The rest are at the mercy of the local housing market.
Mary Ulland-Evans, regional housing network coordinator for Three Rivers Community Action, says affordable temporary housing is tough all over southeastern Minnesota. "The last couple years have been really bad. We've heard of a lot more people doubling up 2, 3, 4 families living in a two-bedroom trailer," she says. "I've heard of people renting out space in their barn. I know the Catholic church in Plainview puts people up in their community room while they try to access housing."
Ulland-Evans says some live in their cars for the summer, while others go to campgrounds. There's a long waiting list for apartments with short-term lease agreements.
Three Rivers, a private, non-profit community action group, provides emergency shelter vouchers to help with temporary hotel costs. She says the state housing and urban development dollars can only be used for people planning to become full-time Minnesota residents.
Ulland-Evans says most people seeking affordable housing have problems with what she calls NIMBY - "not in my backyard." She says that most seasonal workers looking for affordable housing face racial prejudice or discrimination because they're transient.
Paul Moore, pastor of the Presbyterian church in Plainview, helped coordinate the town's second migrant festival. Moore and several community members formed a migrant council two years ago to address the needs of the seasonal community. He says one of the council goals is to break down barriers between the permanent residents and the migrant workers.
"A lot of us white folks don't speak Spanish and I think that's the biggest barrier between building relationships in our communities," he says. "A lot of Hispanics in Plainview are really invisible to the Caucasian community. I don't think the Caucasian community wants to not know about them; they're just invisible."
Moore says most community members see the benefit of having migrant workers. Without them, he adds, Lakeside would probably not be in operation.
Bill Arendt, general manager at Lakeside Foods, remembers a time when they didn't have to rely on migrant help. "When I first started at Lakeside in the early '70s, we'd take applications the first week of June and we'd have 5,600 applications. Now the agriculture community out there, there's larger farmers and less numbers out there and if they have children, they're staying on the farm to help out. The labor situation has gotten extremely difficult without the help of people from Texas coming up."
While Arendt discusses the employment issue at length, he's less forthcoming when asked about company-provided housing. Plainview isn't the only town with an affordable housing shortage.
A couple of months ago, a group of Owatonna migrant workers and local advocates called Centro Campesino, fed up with poor housing conditions, decided to develop their own migrant housing for four counties in southern Minnesota. Owatonna's Chiquita Processed Foods dropped a crop from their production this year and closed one of its migrant camps. So some workers were left to live in basements, cars and garages. The group is working in collaboration with a University of Minnesota design and planning professor to build adequate facilities.