Inspired by The Harvest (La Cosecha), new app AgHelp aims to help migrant farm workers

Inspired by The Harvest (La Cosecha), new app AgHelp aims to help migrant farm workers


Inspired by Shine Global’s Film The Harvest (La Cosecha), New App AgHelp Aims to Help Migrant Farm Workers

Two of the AgHelp founders: Sadoc Paredes (L) and Feliciano Paredes (R), not pictured Ivan Paredes and Lori Paredes

Though released in 2011, Shine Global’s second film The Harvest (La Cosecha) is still having an impact today. A new app, AgHelp, launched this year to help farmworkers connect with jobs and social services, was inspired in part by the documentary.

Directed by U. Roberto Romano with Executive Producer Eva Longoria, the film looked at the plight of migrant farmworker children in the United States. There are an estimated 400,000 children who work in the fields in the United States, picking the food we all eat. The documentary followed three of them — Zulema, Perla and Victor — as they journeyed from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards and back south to the humidity of Florida’s tomato fields to follow the harvest.

Since its release, the film has been used by advocates across the country and around the world to illustrate the need for stronger child labor laws and for farmworker rights more generally.

Shine Global screened the film for members of congress and the department of labor in support of child labor laws. Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard (D-CA), especially used the film in support of introducing legislation to raise the minimum age for children working in the fields:

“I applaud Eva Longoria, Robin Romano and Shine Global for using the power of film to shine a light on the plight of child farmworkers in The Harvest/La Cosecha. As this film documents, children in agriculture too often work in dangerous and exploitive conditions, which are illegal in every other industry. That is why I authored HR 3564, the CARE Act, which would raise labor standards and protections for farmworker children to the same level set for children in all other occupations”
–Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard

The founder of AgHelp, Feliciano Paredes, himself knows the hardship of growing up in a migrant farmworker family. He and his seven siblings traveled with their parents across the country – picking in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana in the spring then heading up north eventually to Michigan to harvest peaches, cherries and apples. His family eventually settled in Michigan permanently and he went to college and then on to a career in human resources. He knew there was a need for a business to help migrant farmworkers and off and on for years he worked on trying to make that happen.

While working as an analyst for the state’s Workforce Development Agency, Paredes would make field checks of Michigan farmers to make sure they were in compliance with laws regarding the treatment of migrant workers. There he encountered many families who needed housing or services and didn’t know where to get them – even one family who waited months for healthcare not knowing there was subsidized healthcare available only 10 minutes away.

Feliciano Paredes said his “aha” moment came in 2011 when he was watching The Harvest/La Cosecha.

I was watching a scene where one of the families arrives at a rundown motel, only to find out that the work that was promised to them is no longer there. When I saw their expressions of desperation, concern, anger and sadness, a light went off in my head…
I thought to myself, ‘It’s 2011 and I can download an app that helps me find the coolest coffee shop or the trendiest place to eat dinner. But If I’m a farm worker, traveling around trying to earn enough money to make it through the winter, and trying to find resources to meet my basic needs, word of mouth is the only thing available.’ That’s when I made a promise to myself that I would do what I could to change that.

Last year, his “Yelp for ag jobs” dream became a reality. Two of his brothers and his wife have joined him in the business. Over the past year, AgHelp won a total of $203,000 in funding and services at a series of business-plan competitions across the country, giving it the money it needed to finish building a robust website,, which went live in December, and to launch a smartphone app in early March.

So far, Feliciano says he has signed up 140 growers across the U.S. and more than 40 service agencies that provide help to migrants, including info on who was hiring, what they paid, and connect them to resources and information in the community, like where they could find a health clinic or how to get their kids enrolled in schools. Last year, AgHelp got about 1,100 migrant workers to sign up to be included when things went live. The service is free for service providers and workers.

Read more about the journey in this Crains Detroit article

Child Labor in the Fields: Tobacco Picking

By Susan MacLaury

Just a month ago, we posted pictures of Victor, Zulema and Perla, the three American teen migrant farm workers we had profiled in our 2011 film, The Harvest (La Cosecha). We were reintroduced at Shine Global’s 10th anniversary party and over the weekend we had a chance to learn in depth how they were since making this film, the effects it had had on them, and where they currently were in their lives.

It was great hearing how Zulema was a college freshman, Perla was planning to go to graduate school, and Victor was achieving his dream of becoming a car mechanic. Still, we knew that all had family members, some of them younger siblings, a few of the hundreds of thousands still working in the fields with minimal protections.

That point was brought home to me today when a friend sent me this clip about a current Human Rights Watch campaign to educate the public about the poisonous effects of picking tobacco on underage workers. Memories surfaced about our research into this subject, interviews with prospective film subjects, production of The Harvest (La Cosecha), and our screenings on Capitol Hill in 2011 to try to convince lawmakers to vote in the CARE Act (Children’s Act for Responsible Employment) sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard. Both she and then Secretary of the US Department of Labor, Hilda Solis, fought hard, but in vain, for legislative reform for young farm workers.

Human Rights Watch has commissioned multiple investigative studies on the wellbeing of young farmworkers over the last 15 years with some successes. In 2014, some of the major US tobacco growers banned children under 16 from working in the tobacco fields, but excluded older teens from their policies, teens who are still vulnerable to the dangerous effects of tobacco picking. Shine Global applauds them for their continued concern. We believe that the powerful imagery they employ as documentarians will make a difference in the lives of these children and urge you to watch and act.

EPA seeking input on proposed changes to pesticide regulations to protect farmworkers and their families

Harvest_Zulema_TitleThe EPA has proposed updates to the agricultural Worker Protection Standards for the first time in 21 years and is seeking input from the public.

These updates would increase protections from pesticide exposure for the nation’s 2 million agricultural workers and their families. This is an important milestone for farmworkers who plant, tend, and harvest the food we eat. If you want to learn more about the children and families who pick our food, check out our film The Harvest (La Cosecha).

Proposed changes include:

  • Increased frequency of mandatory trainings (from once every five years to annually) to inform farmworkers about the protections they are afforded under the rule, including restrictions on entering pesticide-treated fields and surrounding areas, decontamination supplies, access to information, and use of personal protective equipment.
  • Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides. No-entry buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields will protect workers and others from exposure from pesticide overspray and fumes.
  • Measures to improve the states’ ability to enforce compliance including requiring employers to keep records of application-specific pesticide information.
  • Personal Protection Equipment (respirator use) must be consistent with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards for ensuring respirators are providing protection, including fit test, medical evaluation, and training.

For more information on the proposed changes and how to submit your comments visit the EPA’s page here. The EPA is seeking public input until May 20, by the date specified in the Federal Register notice, which is published on identified by docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0184-0002