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Hazards of the Harvest: Children in the Fields

While the rest of the country has been experiencing an epic heat wave, in the Pacific Northwest where I live, thus far the summer has been unusually cool. One consequence of the cool weather is a slow-to-appear local tomato crop, made evident to consumers by some remarkably high prices. A pint of organic cherry tomatoes at my neighborhood market recently jumped more than a dollar within a week to $4.99, prompting me to wonder precisely what goes into the price of tomatoes. Regional growers, distributors, and retailers all told me that prices are typically determined by a combination of weather, what growers call inputs - what physically goes into producing a crop - real estate and labor costs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture labor costs make up between 17 and 40 percent of these overall farm expenses. But this also got me thinking more broadly about farm work and its human costs, costs that are far from evident in the glistening piles of yellows, greens, reds, and purples of summer fruits and vegetables. These costs became all too evident two weeks ago, when two children were killed while doing agricultural work. . . . Read more »