5 things you must know about migrant farmworkers in Iowa

The food we eat today and the products we use in our home were made, in part, by farmworkers who travel across the country doing difficult, risky work so we have what we need. As we celebrate National Farmworker Awareness Week from March 25-March 31, we encourage you to think about those who are working hard for us and how we, in turn, can support them.

Here are 5 things you should know about migrant farmworkers in Iowa and how you can join Proteus in taking action to promote their health and well-being:

1. Iowa has a large population of farmworkers.

According to Iowa Workforce Development, there were more than 70,000 farm labor workers in Iowa in 2017. Many farmworkers work seasonally and live in Iowa year-round, but more migrant farmworkers travel to Iowa in the summer months to work than most people realize. Iowa had 19 registered migrant camps in 2019, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Many of the migrant farmworkers come from the valley in southern Texas. They work sunrise to sunset every day of the week tending to vegetables, detasseling corn, caring for animals, and doing other agricultural work in demand.

2. Migrant workers travel with families, including children.

Some migrant farmworkers travel with their entire family. This means some children end their school year in Iowa, are here all summer, start their school year in Iowa, and then go back to their permanent home. Some migrant farmworker families continue to travel to other states, like Minnesota and Michigan, to perform other types of farm work, continuing to transfer communities and schools.

3. Intensive work leads to illnesses.

The work performed by farmworkers is labor-intensive due to the heat and long hours bending over and can be dangerous.  The workers are exposed to occupational or safety hazards, such as the sun, heat, chemicals, or pesticides. A Proteus needs assessment focus group found that occupational or work-related illnesses were very prevalent as described. The occupational or work-related illnesses indicated by the farmworker participants include back pain, sun exposure, heat stroke, infections, arthritis, sciatic nerve issues, heel spurs, body aches, and dehydration. In 2018, a farmworker in Nebraska died from heat stroke.

4. Supporting migrant farmworker health improves our state.

Proteus, Inc. has provided services to farmworkers in Iowa since 1979. The National Farmworker Jobs Program continues to operate throughout Iowa and in two additional states. To respond to migrant farmworker needs, Proteus provides job training, healthcare, support services, and occupational health hazard training. The occupational health hazard training is on topics such as heat stroke and heat stress prevention as well as pesticide exposure. In the summer of 2019, Proteus provided these trainings to over 2,500 farmworkers in Iowa.

This life-saving education is provided out in the fields by using curriculum that is research-informed and culturally specific. Proteus staff provide training in English and Spanish using posters with photos to help farmworkers with low-literacy understand. In addition to the education, Proteus partners with other individuals and organizations, such as Goodwill of Central Iowa, to provide long sleeve t-shirts to farmworkers to protect farmworkers not only from sun exposure, but also from pesticides and other chemicals.

5. You can be involved in this effort.

For Farmworker Awareness Week, I ask that all of you take action to ensure those who work hard for us have what they need to be healthy and safe. Educate yourself on farmworkers in Iowa, thank a farmworker for helping to provide food on your table, conduct a long sleeve shirt drive, or support Proteus who provides support to farmworkers each and every day. Finally, I ask that you get to know your farmworker neighbors. I am confident that once you get to know them, you will become an advocate for farmworker health in the future.

For more information, check our Proteus, Inc.’s website: www.proteusinc.net

Follow us on Facebook!

Reach out if you have questions.

Related Issues & Ideas

Website

Make It Okay messaging in multiple languages

View Make It Okay messaging in multiple languages
Article

8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits

View 8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits
Article

Building a Trust-Based Philanthropy to Shift Power Back to Communities

View Building a Trust-Based Philanthropy to Shift Power Back to Communities
Report

Systems Change & Deep Equity

View Systems Change & Deep Equity
Website

Iowa Coalition for Collective Change

View Iowa Coalition for Collective Change
Report

Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa

View Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa
Report

Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health

View Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health
Website

National Academy of Medicine

View National Academy of Medicine
Report

Addressing Patients' Social Needs: An Emerging Business Case for Provider Investment

View Addressing Patients' Social Needs: An Emerging Business Case for Provider Investment
Website

Centers for Disease Control

View Centers for Disease Control
White Paper

Prenatal Strategies to Support Families

View Prenatal Strategies to Support Families
Report

2020 One Economy: The Blueprint for Action

View 2020 One Economy: The Blueprint for Action
Report

Human Trafficking Awareness for Youth

View Human Trafficking Awareness for Youth
Report

Mental and Sexual Health Education for Youth

View Mental and Sexual Health Education for Youth
Policy Brief

Strengthening Medicaid

View Strengthening Medicaid
Website

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program

View Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program

Central Iowa youth drive change for better health

uVoice high school students commit to learning about and addressing issues, including vaping and racial justice, in central Iowa.

View Story
View Story

The Dream Cube: Art for Social Impact

The Dream Cube, a monolithic structure constructed of pillows piled 8-feet high, popped up in downtown Des Moines late last fall. The provocative piece sparked conversations about the potential of our youth—if they have a safe place to dream.

View Story
View Story

How Youth Are Driving Community Efforts to End Homelessness

dsm Magazine features a unique collaboration that is engaging youth who’ve experienced homelessness in identifying new solutions to address this issue in central Iowa.

View Story
View Story

A New Approach to Supporting Youth in Juvenile Detention

Teenagers in jumpsuits lying on yoga mats, their eyes closed, their bodies still. This is the image Megan Hoxhalli describes as remarkable for juvenile detention, a place where youth arrive shaken, dysregulated, and scared about their future.

View Story
View Story

Planning from strength: questions to ask your team

Advocacy
Apr 26, 2021
View Post

Preparing yourself to center the voices of those impacted by issues

View Post

Vision vs. Tactics: How we can achieve the change we want to see

Action planning
Feb 22, 2021
View Post

System-change achievements advocates are making for central Iowa’s kids

View Post

How we can begin to find peace in 2021

View Post

Disconnection matters

System change
Nov 24, 2020
View Post

3 questions to reshape your policy agenda

Advocacy
Oct 30, 2020
View Post

What you should know about homelessness in central Iowa during the pandemic

Community response
Oct 26, 2020
View Post

Leading system change, even in times of uncertainty

System change
Jul 22, 2020
View Post

We must all do our part to be anti-racist

View Post

Lessons in preventing burnout

View Post

5 barriers pregnant women in poverty face in getting the care they need

View Post

What I've learned about system-change work during this time of crisis

System change
Jun 11, 2020
View Post

What the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about system change

System change
May 10, 2020
View Post

We have the resources to build a better food system here in Iowa

View Post

What we should do about COVID-19 racial disparities in Iowa

Advocacy
May 6, 2020
View Post

11 best practices for working from home during COVID-19

Leadership
Apr 8, 2020
View Post

4 ways to understand weight stigma and promote a healthier community

View Post

5 lessons learned in building the village of support for early-grade reading

View Post

How we can increase everyone's access to quality foods

View Post