Our Story

“I went out there for three weeks, and I wasn’t supposed to work. I was on medical observation and in pain, but if I told him he [would have] fired me. That’s how it goes when you’re Mexican and your boss is Anglo.”

Excerpts from Angela Hernandez’ interview with Shedra A. Snipes for a 2017 peer-reviewed article on the impact of racism on farmwork in US settings.

Angela’s story is representative of experiences of farmwork. Majority of hired farmworkers in the US identify as Hispanic, and the oppressive system of racism fuels low wages and unsafe working conditions. In the Fall of 2020, during a Community Based System Dynamics course, Ebuwa worked with the Marylanders for Food and Farm Workers, a community-based coalition, to apply complex systems research methods to protective COVID-19 policies for farmworkers.

She learned not only about the diversity of stakeholders in farmwork, but the complexity of problems; those which receive attention, and those that do not. For instance, there are grants and units within the US Department of Education dedicated to educational attainment for child farmworkers; however, this funding and research lacks a preventative emphasis on occupational hazards and systems of oppression. This sparked questions: “what health impacts result from occupational hazards on farms? What systems determine the experiences of farmworkers?”, and prompted our application into the Clinton Global Initiative University Fellowship.

Our combination of a rapid literature review with complex systems research provides not only the landscape of peer-reviewed literature, but the perspectives of stakeholders otherwise left out of the conversation (see lab note entitled, “Complex Systems Research for Policy Innovation”). The costs of potential harm and trauma to child farmworkers caused by direct research methods outweigh the benefits. Instead, we are reaching out to community advocates who have decades of experience working with farmworker families in direct programs, research and advocacy contexts. It is our hope to coalesce both forms of knowledge and offer a policy path to improving health for child farmworkers, one which centers their experiences.