California Farm Workers Documentaries

Films about Farm Workers, Union Organizing and Strikers

Harvey Richards first photograph efforts in the late 1950’s and 1960’s centered on California farm workers. His films were made from the worker’s and union’s point of view, designed to help the organizing drives of the United Packing House Workers Union (Factory Farms), the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (The HarvestersUno Veintecinco) and the United Farm Workers (The Land Is Rich). He was not officially sponsored by the unions, doing all of the filming, editing and producing independently.  Once complete, the films were given to organizers for their use.

Delano Grape Strikers, Delano, CA 1965

Delano Grape Strikers, Delano, CA 1965

Designed to bring public support and to help recruit workers, he filmed labor conditions in the fields and living conditions of farm workers up and down the central valley of California. He interviewed workers and put their voices in his films.  His images provide rare glimpses into the reality of the “bracero” or “guest worker” program that imported Mexican nationals into California to work in the fields.

Starting out as a film maker in the late 1950’s, Harvey chose California farm workers as his primary focus.  He toured the central valley documenting labor conditions in many crops, following the bracero buses to their destinations, filming packing houses and picket lines, migrant labor camps and families living on the banks of a river.

Like his work in Mississippi, his farm worker documentaries include the voices of the poor telling their own story in the their own words about labor conditions and the impact of pesticides on their health. His documentation of the workers’ feelings and thoughts make his works primary sources of information about the era and provide insights into the minds and hearts of the working poor.

Factory Farms

1959, 37 minutes, color, DV  Factory Farms from the Organizer’s Point of View California farm workers caught the attention of Harvey Richards early in his photographic career.  Working with unionists and pro-union activists, Harvey toured the central valley of California … Continue reading

The Harvesters

1960, 18 min., black/white, DVD Rural Farm Labor Becomes Factory Labor The rush to mechanize California agriculture to reduce the cost of farm labor in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s came as California’s factory farmers responded to the anticipated … Continue reading

Uno Veintecinco: the Lettuce Strike of 1962

1962, 15 minutes, black and white A Pivotal Strike in Farm Worker History Uno Veintecinco tells the story of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), AFL-CIO, strike in 1962 for $1.25/hour for lettuce pickers in California. The strike was centered in … Continue reading

The Land Is Rich

1966, 27 min., color, DVD California Farm Workers Grape Strike and March to Sacramento Harvey Richards filmed the United Farm Workers march to Sacramento in 1966 to win the right to unionize for California farm workers. Starting out in Delano … Continue reading