Photo Courtesy of: http://imgur.com/gallery/nKcwxmb
Do you even wonder where the food on your plate comes from? Even more, do you even wonder who are the people that are working hard to get that food on your place? In Western Colorado, along with many other parts of the state of Colorado and in the United States, many migrant farm workers are in charge of the crop that ends up in local grocery stores, and essentially in the tables of many working families who work hard to feed their families.
What most people do not realize is how and what the conditions the migrant workers have to face on a daily basis in order to provide food for the many communities that depend on the many fruits and vegetables.
Migrant farmworkers are one of the most health care-impoverished populations in the United States. Mobility, hazardous occupations, cultural diversity, and low socioeconomic status place migrants, and particularly migrant children, at high risk for inadequate health care and preventable health problems1.
Each year between 350,000 and 700,000 farm workers are engaged in agricultural labor throughout the state and experience exposures to numerous hazardous working conditions including excessive heat, ultraviolet radiation from the sun, diesel fumes, welding fumes, and toxins in pesticides and fertilizers as well as traumatic injury. More than twenty million pounds of pesticides containing chemicals suspected to cause cancer are applied each year throughout the state of California2
Here we can see it is clearly demonstrated how these farm workers are exposed to extreme working conditions that affect their health and overall well-being. In Western Colorado, we have a wide variety of crops that come from the hands of these very farm workers, who also face similar conditions. In an article ran by the Denver Post, they state “For a group of farm laborers working in the U.S. illegally, it wasn’t jail or deportation that scared them – it was their “contractor.”3
When I was in undergrad, I had the opportunity to visit various orchards and farms around Palisade and Orchard Mesa, and I was able to see some of these terrifying conditions. Some of their living conditions were so inhumane that I could not even believe they would actually live there. However, in the eyes of the farm workers, they felt they were lucky that their “patron” provided housing for them. Many of these farm workers worked long days in the sun, with very little water and no protection from the pesticides that were being spread around them. When I visited the living quarters, they often had up to 8 people in one room with little to no privacy. This is why it is important that as social workers and our value of dignity and worth of a person, unite together to fight for their values so that they are treated as equals like any other worker in the United States.