Gabrielle Camarillo began working in the fields when she was 14 years old. She dropped out of school at age 16 because her life as a migrant farm worker caused her to change schools often making it tough to keep up academically. By age 18 she no longer dreamed of becoming a nurse. Her life revolved around farm work.
Fact: Fifty percent of children who regularly work on farms will not graduate from high school.
It’s just one in a long list of statistics that inadequately tell the stories of those who toil in America’s fields.
Unfortunately in 2014 children still work our farms. In agriculture, children as young as 12 can work unlimited hours on farms before or after school. Those 14 and older can work on any farm without parental consent. Hazardous work is permitted at age 16 – a task rigorously reserved for adults in all other sectors.
Now grown – Gabrielle is one of an estimated 3,000,000 persons working in agriculture nationwide. Men outnumber women in agriculture 4:1, but women in the workforce equal or exceed men in some geographic areas and in some tasks such as nurseries and packing houses. For the women who work in fields and food processing plants sexual harassment and assault often come with the job. It is the hidden price that many women are paying to provide for their families. Regardless of gender – pesticides expose workers to acute and chronic health risks. In matters of overall health those engaged in farm work suffer higher rates of infectious disease, tuberculosis and parasitic infection than the general population. It’s tough work, low wages – and an uncertain future for a hard-working individual like Gabrielle.
Rural Neighborhoods is committed to improving the lives of working families, especially migrant and seasonal farm workers. Our commitment embraces sharing with others some of the obstacles faced by those who work and live in rural America. Learn more about Farm Work in Florida or Guestworkers, an emerging immigration and labor force issue, click one of the links to the right.