In California’s Central Valley, farmworkers used to find steady, long-term employment planting and harvesting grapes, tomatoes, nuts, alfalfa, and other crops. This meant that they and their families could set down roots in the community.

But California is in the midst of a severe drought. The lack of water has forced farm managers to leave some fields unplanted, so there’s less work available.

“Nowadays, it’s becoming very rare that you have work year-round as a farmworker,” says Hernan Hernandez, who directs the California Farmworker Foundation. He says some workers have had to move away.

“You hear individuals that are now leaving certain areas of California because of a lack of work,” he says. “And they’re just trying to go to different areas of the state where there’s going to be more work availability.

Others are taking additional jobs.

“They’re either going into construction, they’re going to the restaurant, they’re going into the tourist industry. You now see even some farmworkers that are now driving Ubers just to try to make ends meet because of the lack of work availability,” Hernandez says.

As the climate warms, droughts are expected to grow more frequent and intense. 

So dependable farm work may become increasingly uncertain. And disruptions to farmworkers and their families will continue.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media