It is Christmas season and we see Christmas trees everywhere. Christmas trees are put up each year, yet many don’t stop to reflect on the hard work and consequences that agricultural workers experience in order for these trees to be in our homes.
Prior to the 1950's, most Christmas trees were cut from the forest. Today, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, more than 90 percent are grown on farms growing nearly 350 million Christmas trees in the U.S. alone. There approximately 15,000 farms growing Christmas Trees in the U.S. and employing over 100,000 people full or part-time in the industry.
With the high demand for Christmas trees during this season, agriculture workers working the pine trees become essential for the industry. However, they are exposed to the dangers of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, along with other occupational health risks.
When we see Christmas trees during this season, it’s uncommon to stop and think of the dangers farmworkers face while working. Yet, more shocking is the fact that many of them have not received any health care services. For example, North Carolina is the leading producer of Fraser fir trees, one of the best selling Christmas tree species, but in 2014, in North Carolina only 10.5% of agriculture workers received health care services.
Due to a low percentage of agricultural workers in the U.S being served by health centers, NCFH and NACHC have launched the Ag Worker Access 2020 campaign calling on every migrant health center grantee to increase the number of agricultural workers served by 15% each year over the next five years. NCFH has developed resources and tools to help health centers achieve this goal. Every agricultural worker deserves to be aware of his or her health care opportunities, accounted for in their health center, and receive quality health care services. They work the soil of this country for all of us to have food on our tables, and even to make our home look beautiful with a Christmas tree during the holiday season. So, join us in making this Ag Worker Access 2020 campaign a success and most importantly making sure all agricultural workers and their families receives health care services.
In this holiday season, learn how you can help ensure agricultural workers are informed of the health care services available to them. And remember, if you have a beautiful decorated Christmas tree in your home…thank a farmworker.
By: Joanna Arevalo
Video: Robyn Levine, USA, 2011.
The National Center for Farmworker Health
Improving health care access for one of America's most vulnerable populations