Did you know that in the United States alone, there are more than 400,000 child migrant workers between the age of 5 and 18 that work in fields picking fruit and vegetables? Children, who often work 14 hours a day for 6 months out of the year, harvest 25% of the food that Americans eat.
The Harvest, a new film from Shine Global in collaboration with executive producer Eva Longoria, documents the sad reality of child migrant workers. The film follows the lives of three children, Zulema, Perla and Victor, as they are taken from their homes and schools and forced to travel with their families from South to North, following the harvest seasons.
All three children are shown packing up their belongings and saying good-bye to their friends, then traveling in search of migrant work. Zulema drives with her family to the Midwest to pick strawberries and cucumbers and eventually moves North to follow the apple harvest in the fall. Her family lives in a cramped and dirty migrant camp, with barely enough room for her and her mother, let alone her siblings and grandparents.
Perla’s family also migrates North, but their journey proves to be less successful, as they travel from farm to farm with no work to be found.
We see an even more devastating side of child migrant working as the cameras follow Victor into the field. The tomato season is already over, and he is working to plant new seeds in the ground. Victor tells us about the effects the pesticides and chemicals sprayed on newly planted seeds have on his body. At one point, his skin even started to peel off due to overexposure to deadly chemicals.
Unfortunately, the chaos of this nomadic lifestyle is all too familiar to many children, as almost 40% of farm-working families migrate. As a result, these children drop out of school at 4 times the national rate.
How can you help put an end child migrant work in America? Contact your State Congressman to let him know how you feel about child farm labor laws, or host a screening of The Harvest to raise awareness in your community.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is to buy local and organic. The majority of child migrant workers work in the fields of Big Ag businesses. Supporting local farming efforts is a good way to do your part in eliminating child farm laborers in America.
How do you feel about children being allowed to join their families as migrant workers at such a young age?