The Harvest: Child Labor on US Farms
by interns Kelsey Wickel and Sasha Hippard
The Harvest/La Cosecha, a new film by Robert Romano, tells the story of three children, ranging from 12 to 16, who migrate seasonally with their families in order to harvest fruits and vegetables. Over the summer, these migrant children and their families travel throughout the country, from Florida to Michigan, finding work picking the produce that we eat.
Child labor in the conventional agricultural system has remained the exception to the already established child labor laws. Throughout the film, we experience the harvest through the children’s eyes as they work 10 or more hours a day, seven days a week. The cruel irony is, while almost 400,000 children work in American produce fields every year, in hot, back-breaking conditions, those same children and their families are unable to afford the very food that they harvest. Each child only makes roughly $60 a week during the harvest season (assuming they can find work at all). In the fields, there is little to no protection against constant exposure to the harsh temperatures or the pesticides which are used liberally in conventional agriculture and often while the harvesters are present.
The Harvest sheds light on the seldom discussed issue of child labor in U.S. conventional agriculture. While the film does not site specific action that the viewers may take to stop or prevent these labor practices, during the post-screening Q&A, the film’s director supported the DREAM Act as one avenue to help migrant workers and their families. Similarly, the New York Times reported last year that the Obama Administration had begun a campaign against farmers who use child labor and underpay their workers (read the article here).
For more information on the issue of child agricultural labor in general, the MSNBC piece from last year entitled America Now: Children of the Harvest is a good resource. The film’s facebook page also links related articles.
The film premieres in New York on July 29, 2011 at Quad Cinema...and hopefully at other theatres around the country soon.
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