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Tasting A Rainbow

February 1, 2010

After a brief respite from the airport this past month, aside from an adventurous trip to the Midwest for the holidays, I was back up in the air yesterday headed towards the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to attend the Be Safe, Be Profitable Protecting Workers in Agriculture Conference as part of a joint venture between the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Today has been a full day of plenary sessions and special topics as they relate to keeping farmworkers safe as they work to feed our nation and maintain their livelihood and careers.

One of the topics covered today was that of heat related illness and death for farmworkers. It’s not necessarily a topic I think about in January given the arctic cold most of the country has been faced with during the past month, but one that is very real on a hot day in an afternoon in July. In the case studies and research presented today, many of the documented cases of fatalities for this particular cause of death occurred between the 1st-4th days that individuals were on the job. A scary reality to think that the first day on the job in a new environment would be so difficult that you wouldn’t make it to day 2.

While I can’t say I know what that feels like, I got a small glimpse and greater appreciation during a two week study tour to Costa Rica while in college that focused on coffee production in Central America. I only picked coffee for a little under an hour and was never so glad to turn in my bean bucket given the temperature, humidity, and unusual strain and repetition on muscles rarely used during just one hour.

For the farmworkers who are out there in a field day after day for hours on end to provide the food and drink on our table, I give thanks. A few states have taken on the challenge to protect their workers with standards to try to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries to farmworkers so that consumers can enjoy eating and enjoying the fresh fruits, vegetables, and plants that grace our dinner tables. So, when I eat another colorful conference plated lunch tomorrow that includes several fruits and vegetables, I know that I have a farmer and/or farmworker to thank for the food on my table and in my stomach.

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