Developing tools to improve communication between farmers and farm workers around fruit farm practices
Jim O’Connell of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County and the Cornell Farmworker Program are in the second year of a two year project to develop and test farmer and farmworker friendly tools for fruit production that allow non-Spanish speaking farmers to effectively give instructions for specific production tasks to their Spanish speaking farmworkers. The tools 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. The tools will be tested with both farmers and farmworkers to ensure that they are understandable, practical and effective. Much of the fruit 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.
Jim O’Connell collaborated with farmers (Mike and Tammy Boylan of Wright’s farm and Dave Schoonmaker of Saunderskill Farms) to identify key production practices of berry crops (particularly raspberries) that are a source of frequent miscommunication between the farmers and their Spanish speaking farm workers. He also worked with Sarah Dressel from Dressel Farms and Greg Esch, vineyard manager of Hudson-Chatham Winery, to identify similarly miscommunicated practices in grapes. O’Connell also consulted with Cornell staff at the research farm in Geneva, to narrow the list of key practices. Based on feedback received, the list of practices was narrowed to 8 key practices.
Step by step English language narratives have been completed for each of the 8 key production practices. These narratives have been reviewed by cooperating farmers, their feedback incorporated into the final English narratives, which have been translated into Spanish by the Cornell Farm Worker Program.
Videos of some of the more complicated narratives were also demonstrated on farms and the processes video taped.
Additionally, Jim O’Connell and the Cornell Farm Worker Program held a meeting at Wright’s farm with the farm workers employed there. In the course of discussing this project, the farm workers brought up that they wanted to know more about monitoring for spotted wing Drosophila (SWD).
Jim O’Connell returned at the end of the growing season to Wright’s Farm and held a meeting with Mike and Tammy Boylan and the farm workers employed there to present more information on SWD.
Jim O’Connell presented information on the origin of SWD, and how it affects small fruits. A demonstration of the traps used to monitor for SWD was also provided.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Farm workers at both cooperating farms now have a better understanding of SWD, what it is, and why Cooperative Extension uses traps to monitor for it.
After Jim O’Connell’s SWD demonstration at Wright’s Farm, farm workers employed there now understand that overripe/rotting fruit can serve as hosts for SWD. They will now remove overripe/rotten berries from the field.
One farm worker at Wright’s Farms primary responsibilities is small fruits. After the SWD trap demonstration at Wright’s Farm, Mike and Tammy Boylan asked Jim O’Connell to work one on one, during the growing season, with the small fruit farm worker to set up and monitor SWD traps in the berry patch at the farm.
Wright’s Farm has implemented color coding for the raspberry rows (red = fall raspberries, yellow = summer raspberries) to reduce confusion and errors when pruning.
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