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The migrant health streams.



The agricultural industry in America was formerly controlled by small, local, family-owned farms. These small farmers often relied on family, locally hired hands, or neighbors to meet the seasonal labor demands of agriculture. However, as farming production grew larger and larger, smaller farms that used to be the economic backbone of rural communities were absorbed. Small rural communities died out, migration from rural to urban areas increased, and the labor supply needed for these large and specialized farming productions was no longer locally available. Today, agricultural growers want large numbers of temporary workers, hired for the duration of the harvest, who will work long hours when perishable crops are time-sensitive commodities.

As a result, each year millions of farmworkers leave their homes to harvest our nation's crops. Farmworkers are typically either seasonal workers who are employed in agriculture during harvests in their home area or they are migrant workers who travel from a home base to take on agricultural jobs elsewhere. Since the late 19th century, large populations of migrants have followed the crops through "migrant streams" trailing harvest seasons throughout the country in search of employment. These streams represent three separate patterns of migration. The latest National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS NAWS National Agricultural Workers Survey
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) reported that 42% of farmworkers are migrants.

Today, there are three primary streams in the US, each with its own ethnic and social history. The three streams are divided into regions called the Eastern, Midwestern, and Western.

Eastern Stream

The migrants, who follow the Eastern Stream, start in Florida and follow the local crops up the coast to North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures


Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop.
, Ohio, New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
 and sometimes they travel as far as Maine. There are many crops grown along the East Coast, some of these include citrus, sugar cane, tobacco, tomatoes, blueberries, and apples. The first migrants that traveled the East Coast Stream from the late 1800s to the 1920s were largely displaced African-Americans who were formerly sharecroppers and tenant farmers; Irish, Italian, and Scandinavian immigrants, and Canadian Indians. In recent years, farmworkers in the East Coast Stream are predominately Mexican and Mexican-American migrants along with some Southeast Asian Immigrants, Haitian migrants based in Florida, and Jamaican H-2A guestworkers.

Midwestern Stream

The second stream that farmworkers travel in is the Midwestern Stream. Farmworkers in the stream are based out of Southern Texas and move northward going in several directions. They often travel to the Great Lakes Region The Great Lakes region can refer to:
  • Great Lakes region (North America)
  • African Great Lakes region
 or to the Rocky Mountain area and the Northern Pacific often looping back through the Texas Panhandle. Some of the crops that are harvested by farmworkers in the Midwest Stream include onions, citrus fruits, beans, cucumbers, and potatoes. The first migrants that traveled the Midwest Stream from the late 1800's to the 1920's were largely European immigrants. In recent years, farmworkers in the Midwest Stream are overwhelmingly Mexican-American, and Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants.

Western Stream

The third migrant farmworker stream is the Western Stream. Farmworkers in this stream are based in California and travel along the Pacific coast to Oregon and Washington State, or they head northeast from central California Central California can refer to one of several divisions or regions of the U.S state of California:
  • The state is sometimes described as being in three main sections: Northern California (the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley northward), Southern California (south
 to North Dakota North Dakota, state in the N central United States. It is bordered by Minnesota, across the Red River of the North (E), South Dakota (S), Montana (W), and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (N). . More farmworkers travel through this stream than any other stream. Some of the crops that are harvested by farmworkers in the Western Stream include citrus fruits, grapes, apples, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, peaches, and onions. The first migrants who traveled the Midwest Stream from the late 1800s to the 1920s were largely Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican immigrants. In recent years, farmworkers in the Midwest Stream are overwhelmingly Mexican-American, and Mexican immigrants.

Today, the phenomenon of a continuous stream has become significantly less pronounced. Travel patterns are changing to include a good deal of crossing over between the original streams. Workers will travel from Mexico to the northeast, from the mid-west to the east, etc. However, the migrant health streams remain a valuable tool for understanding the migration pattern of farmworkers throughout the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. .

By Josh Shepherd, Resource Center Manager, NCFH NCFH National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.  
COPYRIGHT 2007 National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Shepherd, Josh
Publication:Migrant Health Newsline
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Words:650
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