Our Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children ESSAY AND ART CONTEST has just been announced.

The theme for 2018?

“Flourishing in the Fields.” 

Through their own words and artwork, each year the contest applicants teach us more about what motivates them to get through the work or school day, what life is like on the road as a migrant farmworker child, and the ups and downs encountered in their daily lives.

We’ve been running this contest for some time, so by now we have binders FULL of previous years’ entries. It’s an immense privilege to have their words at our fingertips – words they entrusted to us here at AFOP – to help broadcast their story.

While reading the stories, though, it becomes immediately clear that the kids we hear from have learned to be their own advocate from a very, very young age – so much so, that many farmworker children have not had a chance to ever really be a kid.  Far from carefree, they quickly take on a lot of responsibility for the family – watching their younger siblings, doing mountains of housework, and working in the fields themselves to help boost the family’s take-home.

But why take my word for it?  Below are some excerpts from essays submitted in previous CIFC contests.

Artwork by Yara Dainne Morales, Crane District, AZ

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Migrant children often have to take care of themselves – including cooking and cleaning the house – because one or both of their parents are out of the house from sun-up to sun-down.

“My mom can’t spend time with us because of her two jobs, so we have to be left alone.  My sister and I cook, clean, get ourselves to school, and do homework.  Sometimes we don’t even see our mom until Sunday.” – Evelyn, age 12

“Usually I help my mom a lot by taking care of my sisters and by cleaning and making food.  I cook for my mom, even when I was small, I would try to cook my mom the best meal.  I knew she would come home from work exhausted and wouldn’t be able to do anything.  By the time she would get home, the house would already be clean, and she would have dinner.” – Nancy, age 14

“Through all these years I have learned to be independent. …My mom working in the fields just makes everything more difficult on me, she always comes home tired and about to fall asleep and all she can think about is going to bed.” – Yasmine, age 14


Farmworker children start working at a young age, often out of a sincere desire to relieve their parents’ suffering.

“[I]t was really hard for us to wake up at five a.m., but we had to push ourselves to help the family.”  – Sandra, age 14 (started working at age 8)

“While normal 13 year olds are spending their summer in the pools, beaches, and on vacation; we as migrants spend it working in the fields.  So I don’t agree with 13 year olds, even younger at times, working up to 12 hours a day.” – Dana, age 17


Their pay is often used to defray their family’s regular expenses, or to buy themselves basic clothing and school supplies.

“We worked like that for two months, and my family did get good pay.  I remember that with that money my mom was able to pay a lot of things.  She bought me a lot of toys and school supplies.”  – Sandra, age 14 (started farm work at age 8)

“My parents never had the money to buy me clothes.  I saved up the money I earned from my back-breaking labor to go to the mall once a year.  In Foot Locker, I would buy plain colored shirts, two for $19.99.” – Luis, age 18


In many of the essays, the children speak of a moment when their eyes were opened to the hardships their parents faced.

 “I ran outside to go look for my parents, and when I finally found them, a big sad feeling impacted my heart – seeing my mom with bee bites and dirt on her face, and seeing my dad working and sweating.  That broke my heart.  …[that night, my sister] said that it was really sad seeing our family working so hard and we couldn’t help my parents.  My sister and I decided that we would help my parents so they wouldn’t have to work as hard.” – Sandra, age 14

“It wasn’t until I turned twelve years old, when I started to realize everything.  I would notice the sadness of my mother’s reaction when I would ask her something I really wanted.  I can still remember the expression.. In her soft low voice, she would say “maybe next time mija” [my daughter].  Just by that, I had to wait, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen.   I started to see that we didn’t really have enough money…  This is why us Migrant kids should study really hard, so we don’t have to be dealing with the struggles that our parents continue to have. – Nancy, age 14

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Sometimes migrant farmworker kids have a lot stacked up against them. But, every year as we announce the new Essay and Art Contest through our Children in the Fields Campaign, our mailbox begins filling with voices, paintings, drawings, and thoughts that show kids just making their voices heard. In turn, each and every entry is a priceless insight on lives that are too often neither seen nor heard by the general public.

We can’t wait to hear from YOU, your students, your brothers, your sisters, or your children in this year’s contest, and we hope to have you as one of our winners flown to Washington D.C. for AFOP’s National Conference! For more guidelines and information visit our website HERE, and get in touch with our team at any time.

3-26-18 CIFC Essay and Art Contest KM (2)

The Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art Contest runs from April 2nd to June 15th.  All children from migrant or seasonal farmworker families between the ages of 10 and 18 are qualified to enter, and to be considered for monetary prizes.