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Department of Labor Issues Report on Maine’s Migrant Seasonal Farmworker Population

December 22, 2015
Labor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 22, 2015
Media Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009

Survey conducted in 2015 reveals patterns of people who travel for agricultural work

AUGUSTA—The Department of Labor has issued a new report, the 2015 Maine Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker Demographic Survey, http://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_laws/migrantworker/summary.html , which describes the state’s migrant and seasonal farmworker (MSFW) population working in the broccoli and blueberry harvests.

“Maine’s agriculture sector is a key part of our economy,” stated Governor Paul R. LePage. “Understanding the makeup of our workforce is an important part of planning for future needs. We welcome workers to Maine who help our economy grow.”

This report results from a survey designed to gain a better understanding of those migrant and seasonal farmworkers’ who travel to Maine each year during the peak summer agricultural season. Treva deMaynadier, a summer intern working for the Bureau of Employment Services, conducted the survey under the supervision of State Monitor Advocate Jorge Acero.

Participants were asked 44 questions in five categories: Family Composition; Living and Working; Type of Work Prior to Maine; Work Activity While in Maine; and Destination, Work, or Activity after Maine.

To carry out the survey, the intern and monitor advocate visited labor camps in the broccoli growing areas of Aroostook County in June and July and labor camps and the Raker’s Center in Washington County during the blueberry harvest in July and August 2015. The largest concentration of MSFWs at any one time in the state is located in Washington County during the blueberry harvest.

In all, 52 surveys were completed with the tabulated results available online. The statistical outcomes are a small sample of a larger number of MSFWs here during the broccoli and blueberry season. Department data indicate that the total reported number of workers for the blueberry harvest was 1,560 and that number for broccoli in Aroostook was 297.

Eleven narratives supplement the tabulated data, providing a descriptive view into life as a MSFW, reflecting the challenges of and reasoning behind traveling so far to find work. The stories of the narratives are similar, indicating that most MSFWs come to Maine from southern or western states following seasonally determined agricultural planting and harvesting cycles.

The survey and narratives provide an insight to the lives of MSFWs, telling us who they are, describing their social organization and support network, and how the desire to improve the lives of their families provides motivation to travel great distances and make sacrifices to find work.

The State Monitor Advocate, part of the Bureau of Employment Services, monitors agricultural employers for compliance with the federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. More information is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/laborlaws/mainemonitor_advocate.html .

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