Chances are the home-grown vegetable on your table tonight comes from the hands of one of the state’s many migrant workers who wakes at 4 a.m. and doesn’t rest until 9 p.m.

The hard work doesn’t end there.

Many farmworkers leave their home country in search of money to send home to families. This puts the workers in a new country without any close relationship and often without access to appropriate care.

On July 28, Foundation representatives, including five board members, visited local S.C. farms to meet migrant and seasonal workers and witness their conditions. The Foundation traveled with Student Action with Farmworkers, an Immigrant Families Initiative grantee.

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Board member Gerald Smalls with community member and SAF intern.

According to the SAF website, “SAF works with farmworkers, students, and advocates in the Southeast and nationwide to create a more just agricultural system. Since 1992, we have engaged thousands of students, farmworker youth, and community members in the farmworker movement.”

The Foundation values and supports SAF’s mission through funding its internship program that places bilingual college students into fields to conduct outreach services.

With the help of the SAF team and the S.C. Migrant Educational Program, Foundation staff and board members interacted with men working on farms to better understand their lives.

“[The evening] captured the essence of a societal problem affecting thousands of people and made it personal for us,” Patricia Moore-Pastides, Community Volunteer and Board Member, said. “I saw men who report working on average 14 hours a day in the fields of S.C. where our summers range from hotter to hottest. I saw them return from the fields to their temporary home. A barracks called a camp, with a wet cement floor, no air conditioning, a run-down community kitchen where they cook their own meals, and a community room with two long picnic benches.”

“What stood out to me that the fact that the two men I ate with both talked about God and their faith,” Karen Smith, TD Bank Regional Vice President and Board Member, said. “It is noteworthy and moving that these men hold onto their faith despite their challenges.”

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Board members Karen Smith and Maria Kratsios take part in a group activity meant to introduce participants.

Making a personal connection to the issue was one of the listening session’s purposes. We were well-informed as grantmakers that migrant workers are underserviced, but looking into a migrant worker’s tired eyes gave new meaning to the issue.

“I was deeply moved by the kind and gentle spirit of the people we met Tuesday night. I have profound respect for all who came together to make the evening poignant and informative,” Lisa Bernardin, Community Volunteer and Board Member, said. “Many thanks to the weary farm workers, the energetic SAF interns, and the dedicated Foundation staff whose time and efforts allowed us the opportunity to listen and learn. I am grateful to be a small part of such a meaningful organization.”

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A look from the outside of the farmworkers living quarters.