5 things you must know about migrant farmworkers in Iowa

Mar 30, 2020

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

Article

Q&A: REED partners share the power in holding space for rest, healing, collective learning

View Q&A: REED partners share the power in holding space for rest, healing, collective learning
Report

2021 Community Health Needs Assessment

View 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment
White Paper

The Link Between Stillbirth & Maternal Mortality and Morbidity: Firsthand Accounts from American Women

View The Link Between Stillbirth & Maternal Mortality and Morbidity: Firsthand Accounts from American Women
White Paper

Strengths of Latinx Immigrants Despite Legal Violence

View Strengths of Latinx Immigrants Despite Legal Violence
Article

Why building community power is vital for philanthropy

View Why building community power is vital for philanthropy
Report

A Caring, Connected Community: How Greater Des Moines nonprofits met our needs during the pandemic

View A Caring, Connected Community: How Greater Des Moines nonprofits met our needs during the pandemic
Website

The United States Prosperity Index 2021

View The United States Prosperity Index 2021
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

Cultivating the Soil for Culturally Responsive Health Care

How DMU is transforming the way health sciences education is delivered

View Story
View Story

Zeroing in on Health Needs

How a needs assessment of Oakridge Neighborhood residents is informing ways to improve health and well-being

View Story
View Story

Doula Care Becomes Essential Health Care

An Iowa Doula Project is expanding community-based health care to improve Black maternal health outcomes.

View Story
View Story

Improving Health through Community Advocacy

How AMOS engaged hundreds of advocates to push for a children's mental health crisis response system

View Story
View Story

Media's Role in Improving Health

How support to Iowa Public Radio is building awareness of factors that influence well-being

View Story
View Story

Latinx Project tells story of strength and opportunity

New report highlights central Iowa Latinos contributions and disparities and elevates Latinx leaders

View Story
View Story

Improving Health through Social Supports

MercyOne's community health worker model improves outcomes for families.

View Story
View Story

Champions for Change: A Collective Commitment to Children's Health

Outcomes from Mid-Iowa Health Foundation's HealthConnect Fellowship, October 2019-June 2021

View Story
View Story

Elevating the Latinx Community

How nonprofit leaders brought attention to the Latinx community and built new systems of support during the pandemic

View Story
View Story

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

Meet the team leading UpLift – The Central Iowa Basic Income Pilot

View Post

HealthConnect Fellows: Engaging authentically in systems change

View Post

7 insights gained through a nonprofit merger

Foundation grants
Nov 17, 2022
View Post

Six Elements to Consider with Community Conversations

View Post

Community-Based Participatory Research: What to Know

View Post

How student research informed the basic income project

Action planning
Sep 20, 2022
View Post

How empathy is a part of systems-change work

View Post

Making the Case: Communications Tactics that Work

Advocacy
Jul 26, 2022
View Post

4 ways to measure system-change progress

System change
May 31, 2022
View Post

Health disparities for Black pregnant Iowans: What you should know

View Post

5 reasons why youth should lead systems-change work

View Post

What we mean by 'system change'

System change
Apr 6, 2022
View Post

4 insights from researching housing instability in central Iowa

View Post

Iowa youth aging out of foster care: How are they doing?

View Post

7 lessons learned from Sesame Street partnership

Foundation grants
Jan 31, 2022
View Post

A closer look at mental health in schools during the pandemic

Community response
Nov 29, 2021
View Post

Get to Know Dr. Nalo Johnson

Foundation news
Nov 24, 2021
View Post

4 questions for nonprofit and community leaders

View Post

5 questions for leaders in philanthropy

Funder practices
Nov 5, 2021
View Post

5 ways to think about your personal brand as a part of your work

Leadership
Nov 1, 2021
View Post