More than half of our nation’s fruits and vegetables are produced by California workers—who often risk their health to put food on our tables. Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, farmworkers have been designated “essential workers” along with doctors and nurses. Yet most farmworkers lack health care coverage, even as they face health hazards including noise, heat, harmful chemicals, and musculoskeletal injuries. As they maintain our consistent food supply during the disruptions of our COVID-19 responses, farmworkers are potentially exposed to the virus while struggling with long hours, low wages, polluted air, overcrowded housing, and frequent relocations. What do Americans owe to the laborers who put fruits, vegetables, nuts, and milk on our tables? How are changes in technology and immigration enforcement reshaping the nature of farm work and its health—including mental health—concerns? What progress has been made in protecting the health of farmworkers, and what important steps are regulators or the agricultural industry refusing to take? Organic farmer and artist Nikiko Masumoto, Huron Mayor Rey León, health researcher Chia Thao, and Tania Pacheco-Werner, co-assistant director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, visit with Zócalo in the heart of California’s Central Valley, to consider how to make farm work healthier.
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