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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
decline in the numbers of family farms, fewer farm children will be working on their parents' farms, but it is anticipated that there will be larger numbers of children of migrant farm laborers involved in agriculture. For the latter children, many are likely to be underage children traveling with and helping their parents during their search for temporary work.
Home and Work-Site Issues
Unlike most occupational settings, agriculture often has unclear distinctions between the home and the workplace. The majority of farms are contiguous with the families' residences and have few outside (i.e., nonfamily) employees. The nature of production agriculture may require work at any time of the day, every day of the year. Thus, the separation between obligations to attend to work and to children can rarely be made by adults who raise their families on farms.
The proximity of the worksite to the home facilitates having young people assist with planned or unscheduled work on the farm. Their easy availability to participate in work makes it difficult to distinguish when children are working rather than doing family chores or being present at the workplace. Often, the unpredictable nature of farming (e.g., the difficult delivery of a newborn calf) may place a young worker in a situation for which there is insufficient training and preparation. Agricultural injuries to children also may occur when they are bystanders to work (Stueland et al., 1996). Youngsters may be playing in or around large vehicles, moving machinery, and large animals. This makes it difficult to distinguish agricultural work-related injuries to children and adolescents from those not related to work.
Children who work in the fields are also exposed to numerous hazards. Many of these hazards are particularly germane to young migrant farmworkers, who work in the fields alongside their parents—a pattern that began at the turn of the century. At that time, many farms in the Northeast and on the Atlantic coast could not compete with the large, mechanized wheat and grain farms that were opening in the Midwest; many of the old farms switched to growing fruits and vegetables for the burgeoning urban markets. Because these were seasonal markets, the farms needed large numbers of workers for fairly short periods of time. Children were often in-