Social Documentary Photography – Farm Workers In New York, USA

A Haitian farm worker stops for a moment before climbing the ladder to harvest apples on this Upstate NY farm.

This social documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Photographer Arleen Thaler.

 

Click on any image to see Arleen’s galleries of projects and photographs.

 

From project “Farm to Table: The Migrant and Seasonal Worker” by Arleen Thaler.

 

Farm to Table is a social documentary project aimed at raising an awareness of the enormous amount of labor that goes into bringing food to our tables. While leaving their families behind in their home countries of Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico, these men and women travel for many months out of the year to farms in the upstate, New York area. Their harvests yield apples, pears, peaches, onions, raspberries, blueberries and much more, and their days are long and grueling, working in what can be extreme temperatures at times.

 A long day in extreme heat, this farm worker covers up to avoid to much exposure to the sun on a farm in Upstate NY.

A long day in extreme heat, this farm worker covers up to avoid to much exposure to the sun on a farm in Upstate NY.

Though there are many farmers that are not providing proper housing, wages and basic care essential to all working people, I have had the pleasure of meeting farmers who do not take their workers for granted. These farms follow the government run H2-A program that allows them to legally bring in the workers. The stereotype is that they have a black cloud over their hiring practices but in reality, they follow all the guidelines to do it legally. These farm owners know their workers value and show that in the way they treat them. Many of the farmer’s children have grown up alongside these workers and now call them family, going as far as taking their personal vacations to the worker’s homeland so they can visit their own families.

 Essential gear, the farm-worker's boot, Upstate NY

Essential gear, the farm-worker’s boot, Upstate NY

While not all of the seasonal and migrant farm workers receive the same benefits of New York state workers in regards to over-time pay and days off, the men and women I have met take great pride in their work. Ultimately change in their favor will come with immigration reform, not only will the workers benefit but the growers as well. Along with the workers, the farm owners face many challenges as well as they are beholden to the market price, which is often set by grocery chains. It is often a lose-lose situation with farmers at the mercy of the set market value for their produce and the strict laws that govern the seasonal and migrant worker.

Taking a moment to pose in-between harvesting apples on this farm in Upstate NY.

Taking a moment to pose in-between harvesting apples on this farm in Upstate NY.

 Days are long and the work tiresome for this Mexican farm-worker harvesting apples on this Upstate NY farm.

Days are long and the work tiresome for this Mexican farm-worker harvesting apples on this Upstate NY farm.

The harvest is nearing an end for some produce as this Mexican farm-worker picks the end of season cherry tomatoes.

The harvest is nearing an end for some produce as this Mexican farm-worker picks the end of season cherry tomatoes.

These Jamaican workers relax behind their camp after a long day harvesting apples in the orchards nearby in Upstate NY

These Jamaican workers relax behind their camp after a long day harvesting apples in the orchards nearby in Upstate NY

 

Jamaican workers enjoying a harvest party in Upstate New York.

 

Jamaican farm workers enjoying a break from the harvest in Upstate NY at their harvest party.

 A Jamaican farm worker lets his hair down and is ready to enjoy an evening of food and music at his camp in Upstate NY

 Enjoying the music as his fellow farm workers prepare for an evening of food and festivity at their harvest party in Upstate NY

 

See also:

Homelessness In The #ROC

NYC

By Arleen Thaler

 


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