On Thursday, March 26th, I attended a scavenger hunt throughout the University of Central Florida hosted by Orlando YAYA. This event took place during the 16th Annual National Farmworker Awareness Week, which serves as a week of action for students and community members alike to raise awareness about farm worker issues. I have only been working with YAYA since the beginning of the spring semester, yet it has already become apparent to me that there is a grievous lack of cognizance about the farm worker community within the UCF student body. YAYA’s scavenger hunt was an important way to honor the contributions farm workers make to us every day, and to raise awareness on the UCF campus about the work YAYA does in solidarity with farmworkers of our community.
National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW) is not as much a celebration, as it is a week of activism. NFAW makes us actively reflect on how we are implicated in a supply chain that forces the people who feed the word into deplorable and inhumane conditions. 85% of the fruits and vegetable we eat are handpicked by farm workers who suffer from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries than any other workers in the nation. Farm workers also have higher rates of heat stress, UTIs, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis. They are denied overtime, minimum wage, access to protection under federal labor standards, and work extremely long hours. Amidst these conditions, women farm workers also face sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and exposure to pesticides that have been linked to infertility and miscarriages.
The injustices faced by farm workers are many, which is why YAYA organized a scavenger hunt during NFAW in which UCF students and other community members could come out and engage in an interactive way to learn more about the farm supply chain we all participate in. During the hunt, participants were separated into teams of two, with each team representing a “link” in the food supply chain. One team was the corporation; another was the farmer, and so on. As a team, your goal was to follow the clues around UCF campus to find out which link you represented. The whole idea was an immensely creative way to structure the clues, and I commend Orlando YAYA members. At each clue destination was a YAYA member waiting with your next clue, but first you had to answer the hint from the last YAYA member. So not only were we having to figure out the hints, and where to go on campus, but it made us actively reflect on the information we were learning in the process. At one point after the hunt, I overheard a fellow group discussing how they had no idea farm workers worked such long hours. Another group discussed how they previously thought farmers had more control over their wages and the wages they pay their workers. In a classroom of under 20 participants, there were powerful moments of realization and education. Many of the folks participating were new to farm worker issues, and those who were familiar already with YAYA and the farm worker movement still learned something new. It is through continuous events like YAYA’s scavenger hunt that awareness is raised, which is the first step in working with farm workers for a more dignified life both in and outside of the fields. The more students talking on UCF campus about the work YAYA does in solidarity with farm workers, the more support we will have amongst the community.
Thank you to the passionate and ingenuous YAYA members who put together such a great way to make learning about farm worker issues interactive for students in the community. Everybody had fun, especially considering there were snacks provided AND two teams won $50 gift cards. Not a bad deal, if I must say. Most importantly, it was evident we all learned something about the life of farm workers, which we can all take with us even past National Farmworker Awareness Week. I’m looking forward to the next YAYA scavenger hunt, which I know will be an even bigger and better event aimed at educating others about the injustices faced by farm workers.
UCF Service Learning student