Ground Crop Worker Health

Ground Crop Worker Facts: Ground crops include most vegetables, melons and berries. While only one-quarter of vegetables and half of all fruits are currently hand-harvested, there is wide variability in the role of hand labor across the country, even within a single crop. For example, leaf lettuces are more likely to be harvested by machine, whereas head lettuce by hand, due to the greater variability in ripening times. In this widely varied environment, workers are engaged in a variety of tasks, some involving machinery and some not. While season length varies widely, workers typically work 10-12 hour days during harvest periods. Ground crop operations also vary widely across the U.S, across several dimensions.

For example, ground crop farms in different regions of the country are likely to differ in the following ways:

  • size of operation (both acreage and number of workers),
  • climate,
  • length of season,
  • hourly vs. piece-rate pay,
  • home-base vs. on-farm camps,
  • degree of mechanization.