Voices from the Fields

courtesy photo

This week I’m bringing you segments from my documentary, Voices from the Fields," a story of migrant workers in Michigan.

The Senate passed an immigration bill this summer that allowed for a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented farm workers in the United States.

Some say if those people get legal status, they’ll have a chance to find better work. That’s exactly what happened to Gerardo Zamora. He would still be in the fields if it wasn’t for a little known immigration bill passed recently.

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

This week I’m bringing you segments from my documentary, Voices from the Fields," a story of migrant workers in Michigan.

More than half of the roughly 2 million farm workers in the U.S. are undocumented.

Of those 2 million, 94,000 migrant workers and their families live and work in Michigan. And they have a lot at stake when it comes to U.S. immigration policy.

Back in June, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill that would provide a path to citizenship for farm workers, but now the immigration debate lies in the hands of the U.S. House – which has its own ideas, and they’re very different from the Senate’s.

For one thing, the House plan does not include a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. Instead, it would expand the guest worker program

courtesy photo

From urban farming in Detroit, the Traverse City Cherry Festival, to farmers markets in hundreds of Michigan cities, this state prides itself on its agriculture.

And we should.

We are the most agriculturally diverse state, behind only California. And after manufacturing, agriculture is the state’s largest industry.

But when you see that Michigan seal on apples and blueberries and cherries in the grocery store, do you ever wonder who are the faces and voices behind these products?

In this documentary, we’ll hear from these farm workers that bring these fruits and vegetables to our tables.

We’ll hear about the struggle for fair wages, good housing and how the immigration debate can affect the lives of the 94,000 migrant workers and their families in Michigan.

Below is the full audio of the documentary

Bread for the World / flickr

This week, I’m posting segments from my documentary, "Voices from the Fields," a story of migrant workers in Michigan. It airs today on Stateside.

Migrant work is one of the only jobs available to undocumented workers in the U.S.

An estimated 50 to 70 percent of farm workers in the U.S. are undocumented, and this causes problems not only for the workers, but for employers too.

This week I’m bringing you segments from my documentary, “Voices from the Fields," a story of migrant workers in Michigan. It will air on Stateside on Wednesday.

When migrant workers travel to multiple states throughout a year, following the crops that are ready to harvest, they never really have a place to call home.

They can’t afford to pay for multiple apartments or houses to only live in a few months or weeks out of the year, and it’s hard to find hotels to stay in when you are traveling from state to state usually during peak tourism season.

That’s why farms that hire migrant workers often provide housing for very low prices, or even for free. But as the saying goes, sometimes you get what you pay for.

Chuck Grimmet / flickr

This week I’m bringing you segments from my documentary, “Voices from the Fields,” a story of migrant workers in Michigan. It will air Wednesday on Stateside.

Michigan is the nation’s largest producer of blueberries. But getting blueberries to our bowls means long tedious work for the people who pick them. And in some cases, workers complain that the pay is far too low.

When I was reporting for this documentary, I visited the Hamilton Family.

When I met up with them they were living in a broken down trailer behind an old flea market garage and a vacant parking lot cluttered with tall weeds in southwest Michigan.

Seven people were living in the trailer. One of them was Randy Hamilton Sr., the father of the family. They are white and are a minority in the fields. Hamtilon Sr. has been doing migrant work since he was in 8th grade. That's when he dropped out of school in order to make money picking in the fields.  

“There’s no other jobs for us that you’ve got a high school diploma, and we don’t have it,” he says.

The Hamilton’s were out of work and out of money.

They quit their job picking blueberries in southwest Michigan. That’s because they couldn’t keep up with the picking demands in order to make minimum wage.

courtesy photo

From urban farming in Detroit, the Traverse City Cherry Festival, to farmers markets in hundreds of Michigan cities, this state prides itself on its agriculture.

And we should.

We are the most agriculturally diverse state, behind only California. And after manufacturing, agriculture is the state’s largest industry.

But when you see that Michigan seal on apples and blueberries and cherries in the grocery store, do you ever wonder who are the faces and voices behind these products?

This week, we’ll hear from these farm workers that bring these fruits and vegetables to our tables.

We’ll hear about the struggle for fair wages, good housing and how the immigration debate can affect the lives of the 94,000 migrant workers and their families in Michigan.

This week, I will post segments from my documentary that will air Wednesday on Stateside.

It’s called “Voices from the fields: a story of migrant workers in Michigan.

Let’s start by introducing you to a migrant farm worker I met.