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The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) contracted with the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) to conduct a time and activity assessment among field workers in California’s caneberry sector. The assessment sought to answer several questions, principally the number of hours worked per day and activities field workers engaged in during the course of the year.

Methods included

(1) on-farm observations on two farms on the Central Coast during the period May-November 2014

(2) a survey of 151 farmworkers employed in the caneberry sector

(3) an analysis of electronic labor tracking data for all hourly and piece rate workers on one farm during calendar year 2014

(4) a comparison of observation and pesticide application dates for one farm

Principal findings include the following:

Observation Data

  • Workers spent a mean of 8.69 hours per day on the farms, with a mean of 7.89 hours per day engaged in work-related activities and a mean of 0.80 hours per day on lunch and breaks.
  • There were significant variations with respect to hours per day between the two farms at which observations were conducted (9.40 vs. 7.64; p < .001), indicating a need to conduct observations on a larger number of farms to obtain more accurate data.
  • The principal activity in which workers were engaged was harvesting, with a mean of 5.72 hours per day across both farms.
  • Workers ate lunch in the field 97.3% of the times they were observed. They ate off the ground (seated in chairs or standing) 70.3% of the time and ate sitting on the ground 27.0% of the time.
  • Workers washed hands with soap and water prior to eating lunch 73.0% of the time. They rinsed with water only 17.6% of the time and did not wash with soap or water prior to eating 6.8% of the time.

Labor Tracking Data

  • We analyzed electronic labor tracking data for all hourly and piece rate workers on one farm for calendar year 2014.
  • The dataset consisted of 34,044 observations for 994 workers on 302 acres.
  • The data indicate a total of 3,670 hours of labor per acre. Harvest activities accounted for 2,934 hours per acre, representing 79% of hours worked.

Pesticide Application Data

  • A comparison of pesticide application data and observation dates indicates a minimum of three days between pesticide application and harvest activities.

Farmworker Survey

  • Survey respondents reported a mean of 208 days of employment in agriculture during the preceding year, a mean of 27 days of non-agricultural employment and a mean of 130 days of unemployment.
  • 127 (84%) respondents reported zero days of non-agricultural employment during the preceding year.
  • Respondents reported a mean of 181 days of employment in caneberries during the preceding year and a mean of 26 days of employment in other crops.
  • Other crops include apples, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, corn, flowers, grapes and strawberries.
  • 125 (83%) respondents reported agricultural employment only in the caneberry sector, while 26 (17%) reported employment in additional crops.
  • 42 (27.8%) respondents reported employment on farms using organic production practices. Respondents with employment on organic farms reported working a mean of 179 days on those farms.
  • Respondents reported living and working in California (including non-agricultural jobs and unemployment) a mean of 348 days over the course of the year, 9.5 days in other US states and 7.6 days in Mexico. 23.2% of respondents reporting migrating more than 75 miles during the course of the year.

Read the full report.