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A Contemplative Day: Farm Worker Statistics

Pass around to participants so that each person reads one fact aloud.

Farmworkers’ Reality

1. A study conducted in a five-county area in central North Carolina found that due to low wages, nearly half of NC farmworker households cannot adequately feed themselves or their families.

2. Each year, 2-3 million farmworkers and their families labor in fields in the US. 77% of these workers are Mexican.

3. 85% of US fruit and vegetable crops are still harvested by hand.

4. North Carolina’s major crops include cucumbers, tobacco, apples, sweet potatoes, Christmas trees, and green peppers, all of which require hand labor.

5. In North Carolina, there are an estimated 142,000 migrant farmworkers and their dependents during the growing season, 90% of whom are Latino.

6. Most federal and state labor laws, such as those governing minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation and protection when joining unions, are different for farmworkers or exclude them altogether.

7. Pervasive poverty and joblessness in Mexico and Latin America force thousands of farmworkers to cross to “the other side” to work in the US, both legally and without proper documentation. At least 52% of farmworkers are undocumented.

8. 71% of every food income dollar goes to corporate food processors, 23% goes to farmers, and 6% goes to farmworkers.

9. Most farmworkers earn less than $10,000 per year. Studies have shown that increasing farmworker wages by 50% would cost the average consumer less than $5 more for fresh produce per year.

10. Agriculture is considered the second most dangerous occupation in the US, after mining. Workers labor long days (often 12-14 hours per day) exposed to intense sun and heat, with few breaks. In 2005, two farmworkers died in the fields of heat-related illnesses.

11. 45% of adult immigrant farmworkers are married and have children but leave their families behind while working in the United States. Most live in isolated labor camps provided by employers.

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