The plight of the migrant farm worker is a sad reality of American agriculture. There are two new recent efforts (one book, one movie) that spotlight the day-to-day living and working conditions of the workers, which give us an important reminder of how the backbone of our farming system is run.
Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook, traces the demise of the tomato's taste and quality through exploring cultivation practices of the Florida tomato (a crop that he discovers has no business being grown in Florida). A big part of Estabrook's research involved the workers who pick the crops. He learns that some of the workers are victims of modern-day slavery who are exposed to extremely dangerous pesticides and forced to live in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.
The Harvest/La Cosecha (director: U. Roberto Romano, executive producer: Eva Longoria) profiles three children that help their parents earn money by harvesting crops such as strawberries, onions and tomatoes. As a result of working in the fields, their education suffers. According to the film, there are more than 400,000 migrant child workers in the United States. The film premieres in New York City on July 29 at the Quad Cinema and Los Angeles on August 5 at the Laemmle’s Music Hall 3. Additionally, The Harvest will be screened in up to 30 cities nationally following the theatrical release. Watch the trailer below.