Farmworkers play an essential role in a healthy, functioning food system. Farmworkers primarily contribute to the safe, efficient, and stable production and delivery of fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products that contribute to the economy and food security efforts in United States agriculture. Farmworkers can generally be bucketed into two groups: self-employed farm workers with their family members, and seasonally hired farm workers, which can add to the complexity of understanding issues related to farm work.
Historically, farm work has always been a challenging career. However, in recent decades, a variety of social, economic, and political issues have contributed even more to tough conditions for farmworkers. Decreasing numbers of small to mid-sized family farms in the American agricultural scene paired with rising numbers of large scaled farms has resulted in family farms struggling to make ends meet. Challenges conditions for migrant farmworkers employed seasonally include facing issues such as discrimination, long hours, low wages, and poor access to health care and benefits. Further, the hazardous conditions in farm work contribute to it being high risk work. For instance, farmworkers face routine exposure to pesticides, heat stress, and injury from farm equipment, which all contribute to health disparities in this population.
Extra attention is needed to create conditions for farmworkers that work towards fairer compensation and better work environments. Support for policies and programs that protect farm workers as well as increased support for educational campaigns can help raise awareness to change working conditions for farm workers. Additionally, support for local food cooperatives, farmers markets, and other organizations that promote fair labor practices can all contribute positively. Emphasis on changes in the agricultural environment that prioritize locally-grown, pesticide-free grown food can help contribute to a more equitable food system.