Children of the Fields

Today in America, thousands of children work in agriculture with their parents and with very few labor protections in place, often times these children are forced to sacrifice their health, education and the opportunity for a brighter future.

The Department of Labor statistics continues to refer to agricultural work as one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.

Children account for about 20 percentof all farm fatalities. More than 10,000youth between 10 and 15 years of agewere injured on farms in 2006. They arealso regularly confronted with pesticides,some of which are known carcinogensor cancer causing chemicals. Moreover,children are forced to work ten to 12 hourdays in excruciating weather conditions,and labor around heavy machinery orsharp tools.

Additionally, farmworker children do not attend school regularly and may fall behind in their studies. Studies have shown that children of farmworkers are dropping out of school at an alarming rate. It has been suggested that at least half the youth who regularly perform farm work in the United States never graduate from high school.

There are also language and cultural barriers that further hinder their educational development. Some farm working families are forced to migrate with their parents and are unable to adapt to each new school. This impedes a child’s opportunity to have a better and brighter future.

Living conditions for these children are just as poor. After risking their health and sacrificing their education to work in the fields, farmworker children are living in poverty and without the daily resources like food and hot water that so many take for granted. Most of the estimated 3 million people that work in agriculture in the U.S. earn minimum wage or less and have incomes averaging $14,500 per year. Child farmworkers risk their health, education and future to earn an average less than $1,000 per year.

For more information visit the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs’ website: www. afop.org