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Migrant Farmworker Health in Vermont


Dairy is Different: Latino Dairy Worker Stress in Vermont

Baker, D., Kades, J., Kolodinsky, J., & Belarmino, E. (2021). Dairy is Different: Latino Dairy Worker Stress in Vermont. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 23(5), 965-975. DOI: 10.1007/s10903-021-01232-5

"Latino immigrant dairy workers face significant challenges. Dairy’s employment of immigrants is recent compared to other sectors, though today immigrants account for over half of US dairy workers. This study applies the Migrant Farmworker Stress Inventory to dairy for the first time. Interviews of 173 workers were conducted using the MFWSI, augmented with dairy specific indictors. Bivariate analysis identified associations between dairy worker characteristics and stress. Findings were compared to other studies using the MFWSI. Average stress was 74.6/156 points, with 36.5% at risk for clinically significant stress. Vermont ranked eighth among 11 MFWSI studies, and fourth of seven studies for significant stress. Primary stressors differed from studies of fruit and crop workers. Over a third of Vermont immigrant dairy workers risk debilitating stress. The MFWSI underestimates dairy farmworker stress and should be modified for this sector. Identified stressors indicate Spanish-language, dairy safety training may be beneficial."

Precarious Essential Work, Immigrant Dairy Farmworkers, and Occupational Health Experiences in Vermont

Panikkar B, Barrett M-K. Precarious Essential Work, Immigrant Dairy Farmworkers, and Occupational Health Experiences in Vermont. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(7):3675.

"Migrant dairy workers in Vermont face a wide range of occupational and health hazards at work. This research examines the environmental risks, occupational health hazards, and health outcomes experienced by migrant dairy farm workers in Vermont. This research draws on a triangulation of sources including analysis of data—surveys and interviews with migrant dairy farmworkers gathered by the organization Migrant Justice since 2015 as well as relevant key informant interviews with community organizations across the state to characterize the occupational health experiences of migrant dairy workers in Vermont. Our results show that Vermont migrant dairy farmworkers received poor health and safety training and lacked sufficient protective gear. Over three quarters of the respondents reported experiencing harm from chemical and biological risks. Close to half the survey respondents reported headaches, itchy eyes and cough; a quarter reported breathing difficulties; three fourths reported being hurt by animal-related risks. These exposures and existing health concerns are avoidable. Migrant workers require better social representation and advocates to negotiate better work-related protection and training, access to health services, and social welfare to ensure their health and safety."

Using chiles and comics to address the physical and emotional wellbeing of farmworkers in Vermont’s borderlands

Mares, T., Wolcott-MacCausland, N., Doucet, J., Kolovos, A., & Bennett, M. (2020). Using chiles and comics to address the physical and emotional wellbeing of farmworkers in Vermont’s borderlands. Agriculture and Human Values, 37(1), 197-208. DOI: 10.1007/s10460-019-09960-z

"In Vermont, approximately 1000–1200 migrant workers from Latin America are helping to sustain the state’s dairy industry. These dairy workers, the majority of whom are from Mexico and Guatemala, experience significant mental health impacts stemming from a combination of stressors due to leaving their home of origin and challenges related to working in rural Vermont. This article employs a framework of structural violence and structural vulnerability to situate the lived experiences and health concerns of migrant farmworkers in Vermont’s dairy industry. It presents two case studies of applied projects that have been utilized to address these health concerns, a gardening project called Huertas that addresses issues of food insecurity and barriers in access to fresh and culturally familiar produce, and a participatory comics project called El Viaje Más Caro that aims to address mental health concerns through engaged storytelling and comics production. The authors of this article have designed and carried out these projects with the goal of interrupting the forms of structural violence and structural vulnerability that negatively impact the wellbeing of farmworkers in the state’s dairy industry. This article describes the successes and limitations of these projects with the hope they can be adapted and replicated for other farmworker communities facing similar health barriers."

Health by mail: Mail order medication practices of Latinx dairy worker households on the northern US border

Wolcott-MacCausland, N., Mares, T., & Baker, D. (2020). Health by mail: Mail order medication practices of Latinx dairy worker households on the northern US border. Agriculture and Human Values, 37(1), 225-236.  DOI: 10.1007/s10460-019-09962-x

"Latinx migrant farmworkers face numerous barriers in accessing health care which are linked in part to self-medication practices using health products manufactured and sold abroad. This study explores the use of mail-ordered medication among the understudied population of Latinx migrant dairy workers in Vermont, a northeastern international border state. Thirty-four Latinx migrant dairy workers or their domestic partners were interviewed. Data analysis found that myriad health access barriers compounded by increased fear of law enforcement as a result of international border proximity results in unequal knowledge about and local access to desired health care products and services. This unequal access experienced by those living closest to the border in addition to a familiarity and trust in Latin American pharmaceutical drugs, and varied experiences accessing health care services, are significant factors influencing the decision to request health products by mail."

Stress and stressors affecting Latino migrant dairy farmworkers in Vermont: An exploratory analysis

Kades, Virginia, "Stress and stressors affecting Latino migrant dairy farmworkers in Vermont: An exploratory analysis" (2019). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 993.

"Vermont is a largely rural and homogenous New England state not often thought of as a destination for Latino migrant farm laborers, but in recent years dairy farms have begun hiring Latino workers; there are now an estimated 1200 in the state, although the exact number is unknown (Baker, 2013). As the dairy industry is the largest contributor to sales from agriculture for the state, these farmworkers play an essential role in Vermont’s economy (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2014b). These migrant dairy farmworkers hail primarily from Mexico, with a small fraction from Central America, and lack sufficient documentation to work and live legally in the U.S. Myriad stressors are inherent to both dairy farm labor and living as an illegal immigrant. In a state like Vermont so near the Canadian border, where federal immigration officials have jurisdiction, there is an additional layer of risk. This thesis explores the social, political, geographic, and economic context of Vermont as it relates to the experiences of stress for Latino migrant dairy farmworkers in the state."

Labor on Vermont Dairy Farms: A Producer Perspective

Irwin, Emily, "Labor on Vermont Dairy Farms: A Producer Perspective" (2018). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 968.

"This thesis explores two essential components of human resource management on dairy farms: the employer-employee relationship, and the components of a competitive wage and non-wage benefit package. Both articles rely upon thirty surveys conducted in Addison County, Vermont, from December 2017 to January 2018. In the first article, using the qualitative data collected in the survey, I apply the concept of precarious employment to the employer-employee relationship on dairy farms in Addison County. Although I discover some evidence of precarity, I also find examples of worker control over working conditions, specifically regarding worker recruitment, termination, wage rates, and hours."

Improving health care for Spanish-Speaking rural dairy farm workers

Buckheit, C., Pineros, D., Olson, A., Johnson, D., & Genereaux, S. (2017). Improving Health Care for Spanish-Speaking Rural Dairy Farm Workers. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 30(1), 91-93. DOI:

"Dartmouth Geisel Migrant Health (DGMH) is a medical student group that provides on-site health services for Spanish-speaking dairy workers in rural Vermont and New Hampshire in conjunction with a federally qualified health center (FQHC). This project was undertaken to evaluate and improve the services provided by DGMH and the FQHC and to refine understanding of the target population."

Milking workers, breaking bodies: Health inequity in the dairy industry

Keller, J., Gray, M., & Harrison, J. (2017). Milking Workers, Breaking Bodies. New Labor Forum, 26(1), 36-44. DOI: 10.1177/1095796016681763

"The agri-food system has completely transformed in the last fifty years, as the forces of globalization and neoliberalism have decreased the number of farms in the United States and increased the power of multinational corporations.3 Pressures to double-down on production while keeping costs low have led many farmers to exit, while those remaining have expanded and industrialized their operations and rationalized their labor practices. Hired farm work is overwhelmingly performed by the most vulnerable in our society—immigrants with an uncertain legal status and little education—who are expected to be flexible and loyal workers. They enjoy meager wages and little job security, and, like domestic workers, have long been excluded from many of the nation’s labor laws."

Resistance and resilience: Latinx Migrant Farmworkers in the Norther Borderlands

Mazar, Jessie, "Resistance and Resilience: Latinx Migrant Farmworkers in the Northern Borderlands" (2016). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 649. 

"This thesis examines systemic barriers, complex relationships, and resilient responses of Vermont's farmworkers, drawing upon applied, mixed methods. The first article uses ethnography to examine food access and food sovereignty through Huertas, an applied garden project in northern VT. The second article analyzes the methodologies connected to El Viaje Más Caro/The Most Costly Journey, an applied cartooning project that shares farmworker stories with other migrant farmworkers as a tool to break cycles of isolation and relieve psychological distress. Both projects illustrate resilient responses to the barriers associated with being undocumented along the Northern border."