Harvest of Justice
JFON Tennessee comes to aid of Victimized Farmworkers
Duette, Manatee County
Seen from a distance, the strawberry fields of this Central Florida farm are pretty. People driving by can admire the expanse of neat rows of green stubby plants, the glimpses of the summer red berries. You can see the workers bent over in the fields, but they are faceless, nameless. The day is sunny and the sky is blue. It all makes for a pleasant pastoral scene.
Get out of your car, however, walk into the fields, and it’s an entirely different picture. The furrows between the plants are thick with mud. The workers do not have boots; they wear regular sneakers and the mud has soaked through, squishing between their toes. Many of them have developed foot fungal problems. The workers don’t have gloves, and the pesticides the farmer uses on the fields cause skin rashes and make their eyes burn.
The workers are moving fast through the fields and, although it’s a hot day, they don’t often stop for water. The water they are given “tastes like mud,” explains Tomás, a young man from Honduras. It tastes like it hasn’t been stored properly; it burns going down the throat and causes stomach cramps. Drinking it just makes them thirstier, so what’s the point of drinking at all?
Back in Honduras, Tomás has a wife and two daughters. The 5-year-old is sickly and her medicine is expensive. There isn’t a lot of work available, but there is a man in town who sells—illegally, of course—H-2A visas, meant for seasonal agricultural workers. Tomás borrowed $3,500 to buy one. He was promised four months of work at $10.25 per hour. He was told he would be provided proper equipment and training.
It didn’t take Tomás long to realize he’d been told lies.