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Why are Immigrant Farm Workers in Pennsylvania?

Posted: June 7, 2007

In the last 5 to 10 years, immigrants from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries have discovered the great demand for farm employees in Pennsylvania.

Few Local Workers

Pennsylvania is a large and productive agricultural state. Many jobs are created in the agricultural industry that help to bring a wide variety of high-quality products to the market at very affordable prices. Unfortunately, too few residents of local communities are aware of farm employment opportunities or willing to take them. Advertisements for farm jobs in local newspapers and job banks go unanswered. Farm jobs have a mostly undeserved reputation in the public's consciousness of being hard, dirty, and low-paying.

True, the work is sometimes physically demanding, exposed to the outdoor environment, and sometimes you get dirty. On the other hand, the pay is usually quite competitive with other entry-level jobs, you're not stuck inside all day, and you may perform a variety of tasks that are not found in other jobs. In the dairy industry, many jobs are very engaging, especially for people who enjoy working with animals.

Supply Meets Demand

In the last 5 to 10 years, immigrants from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries have discovered the great demand for farm employees in Pennsylvania. They come from places where wage rates are only about one tenth of what they can earn here.

Farmers provide good wages typically ranging from $8 to $12 per hour in Pennsylvania and often including benefits such as housing and health care. Farmers indicate that Hispanic employees tend to be very dependable and hard-working.

In the dairy business it is critically important to have a reliable workforce that shows up to milk the cows on time, this need is met by the Hispanic workforce. Thus the combination of farm employers finding a reliable workforce and employees finding lucrative and satisfying job opportunities is an almost irresistible attraction.

These are the primary reasons for the dramatic growth of the immigrant (mainly Hispanic) workforce in Pennsylvania.

You can read more about what motivates Hispanic immigration in this paper from the 2005 Conference on Managing the Hispanic Workforce.