June 14, 2021 at 3:40 p.m.
As the seasonal fruits and vegetables ripen across the United States, the work of harvesting them depends on illegal immigrants. It isn’t just picking produce; undocumented immigrants are also paramount in high-demand agricultural services such as butchering, milking and food processing, among many others.
As most of the United States population has moved away from agriculture, many agricultural employers found they depend on undocumented immigrants to perform these services.
The apricot harvest is underway in California. A crew of Hispanic workers are picking, processing and packing the sweet fruit bound for grocery stores across the nation.
Like many immigrants before them, they come to the United States to seek the opportunity to earn a livable wage.
When you think about it, the illegal immigrants suffer a lot to do the jobs most citizens don’t want to do in America. They pay a lot of money to get here, and they risk their lives for work. And, it is not just for any type of work, it is hard work.
We, as farmers, know more than anyone it is hard to find good, reliable help. Most Americans today glimpse into the thought of working on a farm and think, “No, thanks.”
You should know that of the nation’s civilian workforce, undocumented workers account for around a quarter of the workers in farming occupations according to a Pew Research Center study.
Do you think this large number of undocumented workers are doing more harm than good when it comes to our beloved agriculture industry?
The passage below was taken from a Voice of America article written by Steve Baragona in the fall of 2010.
“With U.S. unemployment near 10%, many believe illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Americans. But when the United Farm Workers union launched a campaign offering to connect unemployed people to farm jobs, only three people accepted out of thousands of inquiries.”
Union president Arturo Rodriguez said most balked at the difficult working conditions.
“They really don’t have any idea what it is to work in agriculture today,” he said. “We’ve just gotten so far away from that type of society that people have forgotten.”
As of late, to get out of the COVID-19 blues, I have been trying to think of three things in my life I am grateful for before I get out of bed each morning. When you have been practicing this activity for many months, the things you’re grateful for become more specific and less shallow in a way. This morning I found myself thankful for the selfless, diligent immigrants in the orchards harvesting apricots while I lay in bed. Their efforts make it possible for me to get up in the morning and enjoy their fruits of labor, the apricot jam I will enjoy on my toast.
Anna Hinchley is a 2020 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate. She farms with her parents, Tina and Duane, where they milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchley’s have been hosting farm tour for over 25 years.