Author

Sophie Clark

Date of Award

2011

First Advisor

Chris Coggins

Second Advisor

Monshin Paul Naamon

Third Advisor

Milo Alvarez

Abstract

Vital statistics for migrant agricultural workers in the United States resemble those expected for inhabitants of Haiti more than those associated with even the lowest economic brackets in the US; work conditions for agricultural workers remain the most hazardous of any profession in the nation (more dangerous even than mining, firefighting, and construction); home conditions are little better; and access to health care is unparalleled in its limitations. In spite of their central role in the production of perhaps the most fundamental product to our survival, agricultural workers receive little notice in the public sphere and conditions which would be unacceptable for any other population go largely uncontested. As a result of their invisibility, often undocumented status, poverty, mobility, seclusion from society, and a long history of “agricultural exceptionalism” in the legal system, migrant agricultural workers occupy a space of exception within our national consciousness within which inhumane conditions are not only permissible but generally unremarked upon. In this thesis I explore these conditions in greater detail, the reasons for their presence, and some possible remedies. In doing so, I draw not only from existing data, but also on my own research at the Collier County Health Department in Immokalee, Florida, which granted me a window into the realities of health care provision in this setting as well as some perspective on migrant agricultural worker living conditions. It is my hope that in shining a light upon these conditions and their causes, this thesis might play some part in reminding its readers what we owe to the hands that feed us.

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