These images were taken between August 2011 and December 2012, during the filming of the feature-length documentary Food Chains.
Food Chains explores the exploitation in farm labor while exposing the modern-day forces that perpetrate such abuses. Ultimately, the film seeks to inspire viewers to demand changes that would result in the fair and dignified treatment of farm workers in America.
Photos by Forest Woodward. Caption text by Forest Woodward, Sanjay Racal and Smriti Keshari.
Those who are selected for picking crews often have to continue waiting on buses until the morning dew evaporates from the fragile skin of tomatoes.
Many farmworkers carry with them the hopes and dreams of their families and loved ones in the countries they left behind.
Faith, family and Advil.
The evening brings a much needed respite from work.
About one quarter of tomato pickers are women. They face routine harassment from supervisors whose behavior is largely unchecked, much less regulated.
Workers will prepare simple meals of beans and eggs for dinner to replace the thousands of calories burned at work.
Farmworkers earn on average between $10,000 and $12,000 a year (far below the poverty line) making it nearly impossible to develop savings, much less raise a family. Coupled with exploitative conditions in the field, farm work ranks amongst the most dangerous and poorly paid jobs in America.
Exhausted and tired, these workers walk to their homes, often share by up to a dozen other pickers.
Workers must sort these green tomatoes for size and shape in order to please consumers who purchase them largely based on aesthetics rather than taste.
Farm workers are continuously stressing the same muscles through repeated picking motions, often resulting in long-term health issues.
Women often work in Napa vineyards as well. The cost of living is so high that entire families must work in order to afford housing.
￼Farm worker labor camp in Salinas, CA.
The city of Immokalee lies just 40 miles east of Naples, Florida, one of the richest cities in America. Immokalee is desperately poor despite the fact that much of our nation’s winter time tomato harvest originates here. (Photo: Forest Woodward)
Tomato pickers are paid by the bucket, each of which weighs 32 pounds. Workers must harvest over 450 pounds per hour, in sweltering heat, just to earn the equivalent of minimum wage. (Photo: Forest Woodward)
Every morning he wakes up between four and five in the morning to take his son to a babysitter, a 20 minute walk across town.