Agriculture is one of the most volatile industries in the United States, with its production reliant on the unpredictable actions of Mother Nature. In North Carolina, agriculture is the economic backbone of the state, but it faces a high risk of natural disasters such as drought, flooding, pest infestation, and the occasional late summer hurricane.
As Hurricane Irene barrels towards the east coast with sustained winds of more than 120 mph, North Carolina farmworkers are harvesting mid-season vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tobacco, peanuts, soy beans, squash, corn, and melons. They not only face the threat of complete crop devastation and loss of employment, but, most importantly, their lives are in the balance.
Each year 150,000 farmworkers and their families migrate to North Carolina to hand harvest all the savory produce you find at your local grocery store. When there is no harves,t farmworker families are out of work leaving many families struggling to get by.
Migrant farmworkers and their families often live in rural and isolated camps far from emergency services or shelters. More often than not, farmworker housing is less than adequate with holes in the floors or no windows or doors. Any structure in that condition cannot sustain a storm as large and intense as Hurricane Irene.
In some counties in eastern North Carolina, residents are unaware of the thousands of migrants residing in their area and, therefore, are not prepared to accommodate and reach them for immediate emergency services in a moment of crisis or intense need. Furthermore, the vast majority of farmworkers do not have the knowledge of how to access such services. Many of these same counties have large areas of land below sea level, creating an even greater flooding potential and hazard for farmworker families residing in this region.
If you work with farmworkers and their families, please alert them of the dangers and ways to prepare for a posing natural disaster such as Hurricane Irene. For more information in English and Spanish on preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters in North Carolina, please click here.