Farmworker Health and Safety Institute

The Farmworker Health and Safety Institute (FHSI or Institute) is a unique consortium of three community-based farmworker organizations that work with farmworkers along the Eastern Migrant Stream, the U.S.-Mexico Border and in the Caribbean. The member groups include El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA), the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF), and the Border Agricultural Workers Project (BAWP). CATA and FWAF formed the Institute in 1992 in order to work together on a regional level to protect the health and safety of farmworkers against environmental hazards such as pesticides. When BAWP became a member in 1996, this expanded the Institute's programs to a national level as well as strengthening its' international work. During this time, the Institute has conducted its innovative training programs with a focus on capacity building through teaching farmworkers to organize around environmental issues and how to impact public policy. As a result of sharing these experiences and technical expertise with farmworkers in the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, the Institute has evolved into the training and monitoring arm of its member farmworker organizations.

The three community-based farmworker member groups of the Institute have more than fifty years of combined experience working with farmworkers. Staff from CATA, FWAF, and BAWP have a deep commitment to their constituencies because they have worked as farmworkers themselves and many still continue to live in the community. These personal relationships, level of trust and access to the community are a main strength of the Institute and its various programs. As a result of this strong partnership, the Institute is able to cover a large geographical area.

One of the main goals of the Institute is to provide technical assistance and leadership development to farmworkers through their organizations so that they can better protect themselves from pesticide exposure. During the last ten years the Institute has trained the following farmworker groups in our Promotor or Train-the-Trainer Pesticide program:

  • CATA (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico)
  • Farmworker Association of Florida (Florida)
  • Border Agricultural Workers Project (Texas and New Mexico)
  • La Esperanza (Maryland)
  • Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agrícolas (New York)
  • Frente Democrático Campesino (Chihuahua, Mexico)
  • CONFENACA (Dominican Republic)
  • Farmworkers' Project of North Carolina (North Carolina)
  • Union Sin Fronteras (California and Arizona)
  • Clean Water Fund, Goodwill Easter Seals and Centro Cultural (Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota).

The diverse organizations trained demonstrates the replicability of the Institute's Train-the-Trainer program which can be adapted and utilized by farmworkers who work in various agricultural industries and are from different geographical locations. The purpose of the Institute’s Train-the-Trainer program is to strengthen the capacity of the community-based farmworker organizations so that they in turn can facilitate the capacity building of farmworkers. Trainers certified by the Institute to conduct the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) training as required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide not only technical information which farmworkers have defined as useful, but also teach critical-thinking and problem-solving skills so that farmworkers can take control and advocate for safer and healthier work conditions. The process is an empowering experience for farmworkers, as they become "active" not "passive" actors during the trainings. It strengthens farmworkers' ability to assess their own realities and develop a plan of action in order to advocate for better conditions through alliance building and public policy. The expected goal or outcome of this continuous exchange of information is for farmworkers to make an informed analysis of their situation and propose a plan of collective action regarding environmental hazards or other conditions that negatively impact their health and well-being. This is a long-term process and the Institute's training focuses on leadership development by equipping farmworkers with the necessary skills and tools in order to accomplish this. This has a broad impact for farmworkers who can then use these skills as they migrate to other areas throughout the United States and/or back to their countries of origin.

Description of the Institute's Programs

1. Diagnóstico: A questionnaire that involves farmworkers in the process of monitoring workplace practices. It is based on laws that protect farmworkers and consists of sections on wage and hour, pesticides, field sanitation and housing. It is used as an organizing tool like the trainings since farmworker leaders are identified and farmworkers begin to analyze and evaluate their own reality. This may result in further information about their rights through training or planning the best course of action to meet their needs.

2. Promotor Training: The Institute has a unique training program in which farmworkers are trained to conduct pesticide trainings as required under the Worker Protection Standard. This program is approved by the national EPA office as well as from the lead agencies from the following states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Minnesota, North Carolina, Indiana and Illinois. In addition, we have conducted this training in the Caribbean and in Mexico. This proven training and methodology has been replicated in various geographical areas and can serve as a national model of participatory worker trainer. This is very timely given EPA's national assessment of the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) as well as a recent report by the General Accounting Office (March 2000) that calls for improvements in the WPS to ensure the safety of farmworkers and their children.

3. Master Training: Prepares experienced promotor trainers to conduct a Train-the-Training program.

4. Handler Training: The Institute has also developed a more in-depth training program for those farmworkers who handle, mix, apply, or transport pesticides. This training has primarily been conducted in the Dominican Republic and Florida. The Institute has also presented part of this training to different groups in Honduras as part of an EPA-sponsored activity.

5. Health Provider Training: The Institute has a manual and training program that instructs health care professionals in the recognition and treatment of pesticide poisoning of farmworkers. It is keyed to the EPA’s publication entitled, “Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings” (1989) which was recently revised in 1999. We are in the process of revising this manual based on the EPA’s updated publication with input from the community-based groups and local health care providers servicing the farmworker community. This training has previously been conducted at migrant health clinics in Florida, Puerto Rico, and Illinois. The revision of the Institute’s manual as well as the training is especially timely, given the EPA initiative regarding “Pesticides and National Strategies for Health Care Professionals" (1998).

6. Organic Farming Training: Based on farmworker comments from the pesticide trainings and Diagnóstico regarding their concerns about the end-use of pesticides, the Institute has developed a manual that trains farmworkers and community members about organic farming techniques. This training has been implemented in New Jersey and Puerto Rico where CATA has begun training farmworkers in farm labor camps and the community. While the manual provides technical information, the focus is on changing attitudes and providing farmworkers the space to discuss alternative solutions to a chemical-dependent agricultural system. It also facilitates the forming of alliances between farmworkers and diverse groups such as small farmers, environmentalists, and consumers.

7. Farmworker Leadership Development Training: This recently developed training (March 2001) examines globalization from the migrant farmworker perspective. Through discussions and activities, farmworkers analyze and relate their personal experiences to local, national and international events. The focus shifts from individual to group in developing a common vision and mission thus reinforcing the organization's commitment to collective action.

8. Focus Group: This newly developed training teaches the community groups how to conduct focus groups and key informant interviews. All steps of the research process are addressed including question development, analysis, transcriptions, etc.

FHSI's 2003 Report on a Decade of Accomplishments

Contact Information:
The Farmworker Health and Safety Institute
Teresa Niedda, Director
P.O. Box 510 Glassboro, NJ 08028 USA
Phone: 856-881-2507
Fax: 856-881-2027

P.O. Box 510
Glassboro, NJ 08028
Phone: (856) 881-2507
Fax: (856) 881-2027
CATA Pennsylvania
P.O. Box 246
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Phone: (610) 444-9696
Fax: (610) 444-1033