This story was produced by Grist and co-published with the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
The workers had spent the morning of November 8, 2021, clipping, trussing, and trellising hundreds of thousands of tomato plants that twisted almost four stories into the air. They were inside one of the world’s largest high-tech greenhouses, which sits on more than 60 acres of a former cattle field in Morehead, Kentucky.
As one of the greenhouse workers, whom I’ll call Nora, sat down for lunch in the worker canteen, she heard her colleagues whisper about their new task for the day. U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell would be visiting that afternoon to give a speech praising the greenhouse company, AppHarvest. Before he arrived, management had to make sure their Spanish-speaking colleagues disappeared.
“We had very little time,” recalled Nora, whose real name is being withheld because she is subject to a nondisclosure agreement. “We had to get them off the premises and away before he got there.”