Thirdeyemom

Farmworker: How Immigration Feeds America

Perhaps what I love the most about my work as a social good blogger is the inspiring people I have met. One such person is Diana Prichard, an accomplished blogger, journalist and fellow ONE Moms member. I first learned about Diana’s work when she went on the 2014 International Reporting Project trip to Tanzania where she covered global food security. I have followed her ever since and even got a chance to meet her in person at a ONE conference. Following is a guest post written by Diana about an inspiring documentary film project she is working on. I hope you find it as fascinating as me. If you also feel strongly in the project, please feel free to donate, share and/or spread the word. My goal with this blog and guest posts is always to create awareness about issues. Thanks for reading! Nicole (thirdeyemom)

Farmer worker: How Immigration Feeds America

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Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that in order to make a difference I have to go a world away. When you’ve been to countries that are reeling from decades of conflict—such as those in the Middle East—or still working to develop a basic power grid—such as those in Africa—the problems here in the United States seem to pale in comparison. I like to think that this is a human reaction to seeing extreme poverty and conflict on the ground, that it is not just a personal shortcoming, but all I really know for sure is that I sometimes have to remind myself that while there are different levels of need any need is worthy of attention and that means there are plenty of things I can do right at home.

This is something I have always known on some level, a lesson I’ve re-learned many times and probably will many more, but also one that hit me hardest in the summer of 2014. I was a few months off a fellowship trip I’d taken to Tanzania with the International Reporting Project. Over ten days we’d traversed the country learning about issues of health and food security and I probably had a bit of tunnel vision going on when I was introduced to a farmworker with what can only be described as an “ordinary-extraordinary” story.

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Diana at a USAID Site in Tanzania

Ordinary because his life is indistinguishable in so many ways from any other American man of about his age. He is a proud Dad, supportive spouse, hard worker who has worked his way up the ladder at his job and takes pride in providing for his family. His kids attend a local school in a small town in middle America, they participate in extracurriculars and work hard at their studies. His wife also works outside the home. And extraordinary because he happens to be an undocumented immigrant. Extraordinary because he has had conversations with his small children that I cannot imagine having with most adults—about what to do if Mom and Dad don’t come home from work or are taken into custody while they are at school. Extraordinary because somehow the constant stress of an ever increasing risk of deportation doesn’t stop him from being a productive part of his workplace and community.

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As the national dialogue on immigration ebb and flowed, but always seemed to be headed for a more and more divisive climate I approached him about doing a documentary about his life. I knew what I was asking him was huge, but I also knew that this was one of those instances where I could help right at home. Despite the risk to his life as he knows it, both he and his wife agreed. I hadn’t actually expected him to accept the offer; I reckoned it was a crazy idea and a tremendously risky one at that. When I asked him why he wanted to risk everything for this, why he’d given me unprecedented access to his work and home life he responded, “Because I want to help people,” and went on to explain that being undocumented means normally he doesn’t have a voice or any leverage to make a difference and he felt like this was a chance to get his perspective out there and make a difference. And from that moment forward I knew I’d do anything to help, too.

The story of immigration and agriculture in the United States is long. In the 1920’s Hispanic farmworkers were already migrating north to work in California’s green fields of lettuce and cabbage. Today, 77% of farmworkers in the U.S. are foreign born. Most of them are Hispanic, and most remain undocumented in the U.S. These people are economic contributors to our society and valued community members where they live and work and they are at an ever-increasing risk of deportation—both now and as our next president is elected and takes office with immigration at the forefront of the national dialogue. The dairy industry alone estimates that loss of even half of Hispanic farmworkers in the sector would result in a 33% increase in milk prices. In the fruit and vegetable sectors we have already seen what immigration crackdowns do—when immigrant laborers have been run out of states like Georgia for fear of deportation under stricter laws the crops have rotted in the fields, because there is no one else willing to do the work.

Diana touring a USAID farm site outside Bahir Dar Ethiopia.

Diana touring a USAID farm site outside Bahir Dar Ethiopia.

As the inflammatory rhetoric around immigration heats up this election cycle I fear that some of our most vulnerable immigrants are getting lost in the noise—people just like the farmworker who has opened his home to me. Through ‘Farmworker’ a documentary and companion publication by the same name, I’m trying to change that, bring awareness to their contributions to our affordable food supply, give them a voice — too often they are portrayed as helpless in the media, they’re capable people and deserve a spot at the table when we talk about immigration policy — and ultimately affect the national dialogue on immigration, cultivating an awareness of what we all have at stake if they are forced out. Farmworker isn’t just about farmers or even just about immigration; it’s about food, and if you eat, it’s about you.

Brief clip: Farmworker: How Immigration Feeds America

Beyond what I’ve learned about what it’s like to live undocumented in the U.S. these past few months, I’ve also learned what it takes to make a documentary. I’ve already spent thousands dollars and countless hours of my time—both of which I consider a good investment, because I believe deeply in the worthiness of this project—but neither of those things has brought me close enough to really doing these people justice so now, I’m crowd funding. The truth is, I’m a farmer myself. We don’t employ immigrant workers. We don’t actually employ anyone outside our family, because our farm is tiny. But I’m still fairly well connected inside the ag industry. I probably could have gone to them for funding. This is a really important topic for farmers of all types and operations of all sizes. But I didn’t want to be tied to any industry for the message. I want to be able to tell it without bias and for our readers and viewers to know that what went into this is only heart, soul and hard work, no spin. That’s why I’m asking for help.

I need to raise $30,000 in 30 days. It seems like an insurmountable feat, but I’m keeping the faith in the power of the online community strong. I know we can do great things; I’ve seen it happen before.

There are two ways you can help:

Donate. This is a crowd fund, and ultimately what I need to complete this project is money and I cannot express how much contributions of any size are appreciated. Backing this project financially—whether with $10, $100 or $1000 dollars—helps us do justice for people who are literally risking their lives to have a voice in a country where every citizen should already have one. And this crowd fund is all or nothing, which means if we don’t meet our $30,000 goal, we don’t get any of the pledges.

Spread the word. If 3,000 people give $10, we meet our goal. That seems like a lot of people, but if we put our networks together, it’s probably just a small fraction of the people we know. But we have to reach out to many, many times than number to get enough donations first. If you have a social media account on any platform, please consider telling your followers about this cause.

To visit the campaign page, click here. 

Thank you so much for your support!

Diana Prichard

Diana Prichard

Diana Prichard is a freelance journalist, photographer, and filmmaker who has covered agriculture, food security, global development, and international policy and politics from three continents.

Her work has been featured by outlets such as Civil Eats, Modern Farmer Magazine, Bright, CNN, The Huffington Post and others. She was a 2013 International Reporting Project Fellow to Tanzania and part of a 2012 delegation to Ethiopia with the ONE Campaign.

She lives and works on the small, first-generation hog farm she founded with her husband and their two daughters.

9 comments

  1. I know there are many jobs like this that Americans won’t do and that many or most of the workers work hard under very difficult conditions. I’d like to see some program that would allow them to be here legally in some way, rather than be undocumented and illegal. Whether legal or not, they should be treated humanely.

    janet

    • Yes I believe strongly in offering these workers legal status. We have millions here and working very hard. I know many work as cleaners, in restaurants and construction but didn’t realize how many worked illegally in farming. Something needs to be done and you probably know by knowing me how I feel about Trump and his viewpoints!

      • I understand his and others’ view on the issue of refugees from the Middle East, even though I don’t share them. It’s certainly possible for terrorists to come in with the refugees and, try as we may, I don’t know that we can really do a good job of screening. Where would we get reliable information? But fear of terrorism is very different from the issue you’re addressing. I don’t know what the answer is exactly for the concerns you shared, what form “legal” takes for these people. But we have to think of ways to deal with the issue, that’s for sure.

      • So many good points.

        One thing that isn’t being talked about enough is how the words “immigrant” and “immigration” are being redefined in the public consciousness. In our modern history those words have always made most people think most of Hispanic people coming mostly from Mexico, Cuba, et. al. But in the past year, as we talk more about Middle Eastern refugees, “immigrant” is increasingly becoming synonymous with “possible Muslim terrorist”. This puts many immigrants, Hispanic, Afro-Caribbean, et. al. in a very compromised position in society. More so than at any time in the past.

        As far as the path to citizenship goes this is definitely something I’m seeking to investigate and report on with this project–what could it look like, how would it work, what would it mean economically, how would it affect families on the ground, etc?

        And last but not least, regarding the trafficking. You both may find this recent ICE press interesting: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-arrests-more-1400-human-traffickers-2015-identifies-nearly-400-victims-across-us

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