Approximately 400,000 children across the United States are working in fields and orchards tending and harvesting fruits and vegetables that end up on our tables. There is an exemption in the federal child labor law (found in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938) for agricultural labor, which allows children as young as 12 to work unlimitedhours outside of school in fields and orchards, as long as they have parental consent. These childrenare burdened with an overload of school and work responsibilities, as well as a myriad of health complications due to pesticide exposure, musculoskeletal injuries, and a prevalence of accidents with farm machinery.
This report documents the annual blueberry harvest in southeastern North Carolina. The text accompanying the photos includes quotes selected from essays that were collected through the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs' 2008 Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children's Essay Contest. The contest was open to children of farmworkers, between the ages of 10 and 18, throughout the United States. The quotes are printed just as they were received. These are their words.