Into the Fields: The Labor of Farmworkers


Into the Fields: The Labor of Farmworkers

The majority of agricultural labor occurs in fields where farmworkers plant, cultivate, and harvest the crops that make their way into the hands of the consumer. The photographs in this series depict workers in fields and groves of tobacco, onions, potatoes, apples, oranges and strawberries. According to the National Center for Farmworker Health, 85% of all fruits and vegetables enjoyed in the United States are hand-picked by farmworkers. This labor is often invisible to shoppers strolling through supermarket aisles selecting produce.

Farmworkers in the United States have many faces. They include men, women, and children, citizens and non-resident immigrants. However, they are all alike in the challenges they face. Farmworkers are usually paid hourly or by the amount of food they pick. In North Carolina, farmworkers are paid 50 cents per bushel of apples picked. To make $50 harvesting sweet potatoes, they would have to pick and haul 125 buckets, or 2 tons of potatoes (NC Farmworker Institute Fact Sheet, 2007).

Farmworkers are the second lowest paid workforce in the nation (Runyan, J. USDA, 2001). Though exposed to some of the most hazardous working conditions, they suffer from insufficient job safety legislation. 

Documenting the Politics of Food: Photographs from the Rubenstein Library Collections

10 August - 10 December 2012

Special Collections Hallway Gallery
Duke University

Gallery is open Monday-Sunday
Hours vary, please check online

Opening Reception
September 20th, Time TBA
Perkins Library