Farm Worker Images

Photographing Industrial Agriculture in California, 1958 to 1966

Harvey Richards’ photo images of agriculture captured the look and feel of a formative moment in the creation of industrial agriculture in the central valley of California in the period from 1957 to 1966. He began photographing California agriculture while making his first  films for the United Packing House Workers organizers, Factory Farms (1959, 37 min.) and The Harvesters (1960, 18 min). He toured the central valley documenting many crops.  He followed bracero workers from Mexico to the fields, into their barracks and dining halls. He photographed resident farm workers in the early morning shape-ups where labor contractors were hiring, in the labor camps and in their homes.  He photographed child labor in the fields and the long lines at soup kitchens when there was no work. And he photographed the wave of mechanization that swept over the central valley as growers prepared for the end of the bracero program.

Harvey Richards photographing a strike, photo by Katie Peake, 1965

Harvey Richards photographing a strike, photo by Katie Peake, 1965

Next, he turned his attention to farm worker strikes led by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO and later for the United Farm Workers Union in two films, Uno Veintecinco (1962, 15 min.) and The Land Is Rich (1966, 27 min.).  He photographed strikers during the 1962 strike for $1.25 per hour in the lettuce fields of Imperial County and Fresno County (Uno Veintecinco), the grape strike of 1965 and the United Farm Worker’s Union march to Sacramento in 1966 (The Land is Rich).

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All images are copyrighted © Paul Richards 2001-2013.

Mechanized Poison: Chemicals in California Agriculture 1958-65

Poisons in California Agriculture: A Capital Input for Profit Just as agribusiness in California turned to mechanization of planting, watering and harvesting to reduce labor costs and increase profits, so too did it turn to chemical pesticide poisons and fertilizers derived … Continue reading

Water in California Agriculture, 1958-1965

Water: A Capital Input for Agribusiness Profit Corporate agribusiness thinks of water as a capital input for their profit making enterprises. Most people think of a river meandering through green pastures, or a wild river roaring through wooded valleys as signs of the … Continue reading

Seeds and Mechanized Planting

Mechanized Planting: From Tending the Land to Tending Machines Before Monsanto’s patented, genetically modified seeds came into existence in the 1990’s and established legal barriers to prevent farmers from gathering seeds from their crops for planting next year, seed harvesting … Continue reading

Industrial Agriculture Shapes the Land

Land: A Blank Medium for Profits for Industrial Agriculture   Industrial agriculture’s first step is consolidation of the land into big farms. Then big machinery shapes the land so that large scale industrial agriculture can operate profitably. They call it … Continue reading

Child Labor in the Fields of California, 1958, 1962

Child Labor of All Races Child labor in the fields of California from 1958 to 1966 prevailed in crops where hand labor was dominant, which included crops like potatoes and carrots which were soon to be taken over by mechanized harvesting. … Continue reading

Farm Workers on Strike, 1959-1966

Harvey Richards photographed farm workers on strike from 1957 to 1966. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s farm workers went on strike many times in a seemingly futile effort to win higher wages and better conditions in a labor … Continue reading

California Farm Workers at Home, 1957-1965

Farm Workers at the Bottom California farm workers lived in substandard housing, in labor camps, mobile trailers, and sometimes on the banks of a river.  With bracero labor removing half or more of the jobs from California’s factory farms in … Continue reading

California Bracero Program in 1958

Photographing the California Bracero Program In 1958, the California bracero program sponsored by the U.S. government imported temporary contract laborers from Mexico under an agreement created during World War II. The California Bracero Program brought prosperity to growers and poverty to … Continue reading