Developing tools to improve communication between farmers and farm workers around fruit farm practices

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,986.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
James O'Connell
Cornell Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: berries (other), berries (brambles), grapes


  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County and the Cornell Farmworker Program seek to develop and test a farmer and farmworker friendly tool that will allow non-Spanish speaking farmers to effectively give instructions for specific production tasks to their Spanish speaking farmworkers.

    The tool will consist of step by step videos of key tasks, in Spanish and English, and a field guide, designed for workers with low or no literacy, reproducing the key farm production tasks (e.g. pruning, spraying, harvesting) that correspond to the video instructions for in field reference. A set of grape and raspberry production practices where effective communication is critical or miscommunication occurs frequently identified by farmers and farmworkers will be used to pilot the process. The tools will be tested with both farmers and farmworkers to ensure that they are understandable, practical and effective. The project is important because successful management of fruit and vegetable farms requires effective communication between the farmer and the laborer. Much of the agricultural industry in New York relies on migrant labor, mostly of Latin American origin, many of whom comprehend little or no English. Most farmers in the region do not speak Spanish and often find themselves unable to effectively communicate with their workers. In addition, there is not consistency in the labor pool, such that workers trained one year are back on the same type of farm the next year. As a result, directions are misunderstood, leading to incomplete or improperly completed tasks and decreasing overall farm efficiency and profit.

    We will print up copies of the field guides for wider distribution and they will be available as pdf files on our website. We will make the videos available on our websites and through YouTube. The results from this experiment will be disseminated to growers through traditional educational outreach such as winter meetings and fruit schools, summer field meetings, newsletters, fact sheets etc. The information will also be presented in webinar format to expand the outreach beyond Ulster County farmers and into the larger New York State agriculture community.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    A list of production practices for raspberry and grape farmers will be developed by the CCE fruit educator. This list will include production practices that are likely to be important to farmers, and will include practices where there is potential for error (e.g. pruning, spraying). Additional practices added to this list will include those that if done improperly may be problematic or if made would cause health/safety concerns for workers. Farmers and farmworkers will be interviewed to identify from this list the top practices that they feel that miscommunication due to language barrier is a concern. From the list 10-20 essential tasks will be selected. A comprehensive English narrative for each step will be compiled that is written in plain language that does not assume experience with the crop. For example, if pruning is one of the 10-20 essential tasks, a detailed narrative would then be constructed to explain this process. The narrative would start with the most basic aspect of pruning (i.e. obtaining the proper tool) and progress to the most complicated task (i.e. the actual pruning). Each step would build on the prior step adding layers of detail until the entire task has been narrated.

    Completed English narratives are then reviewed by extension staff and farmers and English speaking farmworkers for clarity. These groups will provide feedback and check for accuracy. They will also make certain that the guides are comprehensible by both farmers and farmworkers (not overly technical). The next step is to translate the English version of the guide into Spanish. Because of the differences in grammar and syntax between English and Spanish, the translation of the guide will be a flowing translation as opposed to a literal translation. Cornell Farmworker Program staff will take the lead on this activity. As with the English version of this guide, the Spanish version must also be reviewed. Translated versions of the guide will be directly reviewed by farmworkers, as well as Spanish speaking farmers. Feedback will relate to the message conveyed in the guide, its accuracy in depicting the defined practice, the ease of use, and the overall comprehensibility of the guide. Upon completing all the translations, videos demonstrating each practice in English and Spanish, based on the narratives will be produced. Concurrently, CCE educators will produce a pictorial representation of each practice, with limited text, which can be used in the field. Videos and field guides will be reviewed by farmers and farmworkers. In this instance their feedback will relate to the accuracy of the materials present, the comprehensibility by both parties, and the overall ease of use on the farm by both parties. Videos and field guides will be revised based on feedback given.

    Farmers and farmworkers not involved in the development process will be asked to evaluate the prototype video and field guides during the 2015 growing season. The evaluation will consist of a field test by 5-10 raspberry and 5-10 grape producers. They will be asked to rate the overall comprehensibility of the video and field guides, the ease of use of the materials, the impact (positive and/or negative) they feel these guides will have, note any problems encountered with the guides, and offer suggestions to fix any problems encountered. Evaluations will then be collected and necessary changes identified in the evaluation process will be implemented.

    Spring 2014 March/June
    1. Develop a list of production practices for raspberry and grape production that are: likely to be (a) important to growers and (b) where errors are likely to be made, if made would be problematic or costly, or if made would cause health/safety concerns for workers. 1 day Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County (CCEUC)
    2. Survey raspberry and grape growers and farmworkers to narrow list down to 10-20 key practices. 1 days CCEUC .5 day Cornell Farmworker Program (CFP)
    3. Write a step by step narrative for each practice in English. Have narratives reviewed by extension staff and farmers for accuracy and ability to be comprehensible by farmers and farmworkers - 3 days CCEUC, 1 day CFP
    4. Have narratives translated into Spanish. Have Spanish versions reviewed by farm workers/practitioners for accuracy and comprehensibility - 2.5 days CFP, 1 day CCEUC

    May-December 2014
    5. Develop videos demonstrating each practice in English and Spanish - 2 days CCEUC
    6. Develop pictorial representations of each practice with limited verbiage for field use 1 day CCEUC, 1 day CFP
    7. Farmers and farmworkers to review videos and field guides and comment. 1 day CCEUC, 1 day CFP
    8. Revise videos and field guides (if necessary) based on feedback. 1 day CCEUC, 1 day CFP

    December 2014-December 2015
    9. Develop evaluation process for videos and field guides 1 day CCEUC, .5 day CFP
    10. Field test field guides and videos with farms (farmers and farmworkers) during growing season. Recruit 5-10 raspberry producers and 5-10 grape producers to use field guides. 3 days CCEUC, 2 day CFP
    11. Collect evaluations from growers and identify any changes that are needed. 1 day CCEUC, .5 day CFP

     Results from the project will also be summarized in reports to NESARE.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.