Series: Seeds of Change

WMUK's three-part series "Seeds of Change" explores the changing lives of Hispanic workers in Michigan's agriculture fields.

Robbie Feinberg/WMUK

On WestSouthwest, WMUK reporter Robbie Feinberg's series on the changing lives of migrant workers in Michigan. 

  

Farmer Arturo Pendoja talking with Kyle Mead, ground water technician with the Van Buren Conservation District
Robbie Feinberg, WMUK

This week, we’ve been looking at the changing lives of Hispanic workers in Michigan’s fields. Many are leaving the fields entirely. But others are stepping into a new agricultural role: farm owner. From 2007 to 2012, the number of Hispanic farmers in Michigan has increased by nearly 10 percent. For years, they've faced discrimination and cultural barriers. But now, one man in Southwest Michigan is trying to bring them together.


Robbie Feinberg/WMUK

Over the past few summers, Michigan farmers have run into a problem. The Hispanic workers they rely on to pick and harvest their crops seem to be disappearing. The shortage has forced farmers to search out out-of-the-box solutions, including a federal visa program for temporary agricultural workers. But neither farmers nor migrant advocates are very happy about the change.


Robbie Feinberg/WMUK

Michigan’s $100-billion-a-year food and agriculture industry faces a crossroads. For decades, the system was steady. Farmers grew crops. Hispanic workers from places like Texas and Florida migrated here every summer to pick and harvest, then left before the first frost. Over the past few decades, though, new programs and support for migrants mean many workers aren’t staying in that system. In the first part of our series on the topic, we look at just where many of those workers are going.