What You Don’t Know About Farm Workers May Surprise You

March 4, 2016 | by Michael Wilt

Categories: Housing Matters, Rental Housing, Texas Foundations Fund
Tags: motivation education and training, farm worker housing

Farm workers across the nation face many uncertainties as the location and duration of their employment can be unpredictable. A National Center for Farmworker Health demographic sheet estimates there are more than 3 million migrant and seasonal farm workers in the United States including roughly 360,000 in Texas based on data from 2000. Among that population, 42% identify as migrant farm workers, and 58% identify as seasonal farm workers.

Migrant farm workers travel at least 75 miles within a year to obtain a farm job, while seasonal workers are employed closer to home and work during crop periods. Farm workers often face high poverty rates due to agicrultural jobs not being subject to most federal and state minimum wage requirements combined with inconsistent job hours and locations. Average family income ranges from $15,000 to $17,499, and 30% of all farm worker families earn below the U.S. government poverty line.

A recent How Housing Matters piece highlights a California Institute for Rural Studies report documenting some of the unique housing challenges facing farm workers with low and inconsistent incomes:

  • Farm worker housing is crowded. On average there are 1.2 familes per dwelling for citizen workers and 1.8 families per dwelling for non-citizen workers.
  • The population of workers living in employer-provided housing has fallen from one fourth living in that type of housing in 1984 to one eighth in 2005-2007.
  • Inadequate living conditions are common in farm worker housing because of unsafe drinking water, pest infestations, exposure to pesticides, and substandard heating, plumbing and electrical service. 

TSAHC and Farm Worker Housing

Vista Rita Blanca Farmworker Housing | Dalhart, TexasBased on these challenges, it's no surprise the report referenced above lists building new affordable and decent housing while improving existing housing as its first recommendation. We're proud to say TSAHC has been a part of each of those efforts.

In 2012, TSAHC partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide financing to the Guadalupe Economic Services Corporation to construct the Vista Rita Blanca Apartments in Dalhart, Texas. The 28-unit housing development opened in 2014 and provides affordable family-friendly rental units for low-income agricultural workers. We invite you to read more about the community on our Texas Housing Impact Fund success stories web page

Since 2009, TSAHC has provided more than $250,000 in Texas Foundations Fund grant funding to Motivation, Education and Training, Inc. (MET). The organization uses our funding to provide critical home repairs to homes of farm workers in South Texas communities. Pictured to the right is a home MET repaired with funding from a 2015 Texas Foundations Fund award.

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