Perhaps unlike many, my connection to the American agricultural production system exists through living relatives. In a sleepy small town in Tennessee, my grandparents still reside in a one-story, ranch-style house amidst miles of farmland, although they no longer work their land themselves or manage the harvesting of crops - and haven’t since retiring.
As a child, I remember running through tall cornstalks chasing my sisters and avoiding bees. I remember small bean plants and rides on my grandpa’s John Deer tractor. I remember long discussions of the poor planting decisions of neighbors and dismay at the piece-by-piece selling of land in the area for economic survival.
Even with these fond memories and close encounters with our nation’s changing food production system, I still consider my understanding of the lives of migrant and seasonal ag workers relatively infantile. Fortunately, I found my premier attendance at NCFH’s Annual Midwest Stream Forum served as a giant gateway to increasing that understanding.
From explanatory sessions on how U.S. social programming addresses the unique needs of ag workers to fervent discussions of how to champion increased access to health care for this population, I found myself in a diverse community of advocates, researchers, public health leaders and front-line health service delivery workers.
We were all curious to hear each other’s stories and perspectives, anxious to build on our tools for meeting the needs of those who keep America fed.
This year’s Keynote Speaker, Judge Juan Antonio Chavira, provided attendees with valuable insight into the importance of accommodating, respecting and recognizing the influence of curanderismo, Mexican American folk healing, when treating some agricultural worker patients.
He said our prerogative as champions of ag worker health should not be to convince someone that their way of healing is incorrect but that both fields of thought might work together to meet patients’ needs. Instead of being right, “the idea is to make people well,” he said.
On behalf of NCFH, thank you so much to everyone that attended and supported this year’s event in Albuquerque.
On behalf of myself, a fellow learner and growing champion, may the lessons and conversations from the forum continue to inspire us to better serve agricultural workers in innovative, respectful and culturally appropriate ways.
Photos: Lindsey Bachman
- Increasing Access to Quality Healthcare for Ag Workers materials on our website and through National Association of Community Health Center's Learning Communities - We call on every migrant health center grantee to increase by 15% each year over the next five years the number of agricultural workers served.
- The National Agricultural Workers Survey - "The National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) is an employment-based, random- sample survey of U.S. crop workers that collects demographic, employment, and health data in face-to-face interviews. The survey began in Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 1989; since then over 56,000 workers have been interviewed. The survey's findings are made available through periodic research reports and a NAWS public access data (NAWSPAD) file."
- HRSA Health Center Program Data - 2014 UDS data for all federally qualified health center grantees at the health center, state and national levels.
- Community Health Vote, supported by NACHC - An initiative supporting "as many of the more than 1,200 Federally Qualified Health Center organizations (FQHCs) as possible in establishing non-partisan voter registration as one of the services they provide to their patients and communities on an ongoing basis."