Finding America’s Farmworkers

After nearly ten years of volunteering with farmworker aid organizations and writing some articles and blog posts, I thought I knew a lot about the men and women who plant, cultivate, and harvest the crops that fill the produce sections of our grocery stores. I was wrong.

I had been to dozens of labor camps, mostly as a volunteer with the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry. I had seen hundreds of workers lining up to listen attentively to Father Tony or Juan Carabaña, and to collect whatever food or clothing or other donated items we had to give out. But I sure didn’t know any of their names. Nor did I know what exactly brought them to hold take these jobs, nor what it was like leaving their families in Mexico for the better part of every year.

It dawned on me too there is more to this world than the workers themselves. What about the North Carolina growers who hire these tens of thousands of workers each year? What are things like for them? And what about healthcare and legal advocates? Or the state workers who inspect the labor camps? What does this world look like to them? My inventory of ignorance was extensive.

About a year ago I decided to dive deep into this world and talk with whoever would talk with me, write it all up as best I could, and put it into a book. Well over a hundred folks have been kind enough to talk with me so far. Already I’ve learned far more than I ever expected. I can’t wait to share it.