Eating is an agricultural action. Every time we eat, we enjoy the fruits of farmworker labor. Every time we buy food, we pay farmworker wages. Every time we waste or throw away food, we are casting away the intense labor that it takes to coax each harvest from the ground.
It is time to take responsibility, and understand that if you eat you are involved in agriculture – as Wendell Berry once said.
In the U.S. there are over 2 million farm workers that labor between 8-14 hours every day under extreme weather conditions, exposed to dangerous chemicals, and targeted by discrimination. No matter how bad it gets, this humble population overcomes challenges each day to provide for their families – and, in turn, to put food on all of our plates. Their sacrifices are significant, while the rest of us enjoy the final product without a notion of the hard labor that goes into planting, harvesting, and delivering that produce to the market.
Farmworkers play a critical – yet sometimes invisible – role in our lives. That’s why every year we celebrate National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW) during this last week of March. It is a celebration, and a way to honor and appreciate the millions of farmworkers that harvest our food.
For AFOP Health & Safety Programs, it is an exciting week when we see many farmworker advocate organizations, communities, and individuals recognizing all the contributions farmworkers make to our lives. AFOP staff has been celebrating NFAW for years, getting involved through the collection of long-sleeve shirts. Since 2013 we have collected and distributed 65,003 long-sleeve shirts among the farmworker community.
This year is no exception; we are committed to honoring and improving farmworker lives through our annual National Long-Sleeve Shirt Drive from March 23-April 3rd. The shirts collected will be distributed among the farmworker community after pesticide safety training, heat stress trainings and other activities by AFOP Health and Safety’s nationwide trainer network.
During NFAW, AFOP will be publishing daily blogs to honor farmworkers by using the key messages designated by Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF). We invite you to subscribe so you never miss a publication.
Why long-sleeve shirts?
Each year, an estimated 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to U.S. farms, forests, lawns and golf courses. Farmworkers face long hours of arduous work exposed to dangerous pesticides and heat. Pesticide applicators, farmers and farmworkers, and communities near farms are often most at risk of pesticide exposure and heat-related illnesses. A long-sleeve shirt can help farmworkers mitigate exposure to pesticides and reduce their chances of suffering from heat related illnesses, thereby helping farmworkers lead a healthy and safer life.
Although we at AFOP Health & Safety’s Washington D.C. office stack up our own shirt donations, we certainly have some help. With over 135 drop-off locations in 33 states, you can help donate shirts to promote healthy practices in the farmworker community no matter where you find yourself. Check drop-off locations HERE.
Activities will be held across the nation this week. No matter where you are, check out the happenings in your community, put out a box to collect long-sleeve shirts with us, or create your own event. Let’s support and bring honor to the amazing farmworker community; remember, YOU are involved in agriculture.