Robbie Feinberg/WMUK

Michigan’s new minimum wage law that passed in 2014 has left a lot of workers with more money in their pockets. It boosted the state minimum wage from $7.40 per hour up to the current rate of $8.50. By 2018, it’ll be up to $9.25. But the legislation also wiped away the amendments and rules that went along with the state’s old minimum wage law. Because of that, labor advocates are worried that a segment of Michigan’s farmworkers are now exempt from minimum wage laws. 

Farmer Arturo Pendoja talking with Kyle Mead, ground water technician with the Van Buren Conservation District
Robbie Feinberg, WMUK

This week, we’ve been looking at the changing lives of Hispanic workers in Michigan’s fields. Many are leaving the fields entirely. But others are stepping into a new agricultural role: farm owner. From 2007 to 2012, the number of Hispanic farmers in Michigan has increased by nearly 10 percent. For years, they've faced discrimination and cultural barriers. But now, one man in Southwest Michigan is trying to bring them together.

Robbie Feinberg/WMUK

Over the past few summers, Michigan farmers have run into a problem. The Hispanic workers they rely on to pick and harvest their crops seem to be disappearing. The shortage has forced farmers to search out out-of-the-box solutions, including a federal visa program for temporary agricultural workers. But neither farmers nor migrant advocates are very happy about the change.

Robbie Feinberg/WMUK

Michigan’s $100-billion-a-year food and agriculture industry faces a crossroads. For decades, the system was steady. Farmers grew crops. Hispanic workers from places like Texas and Florida migrated here every summer to pick and harvest, then left before the first frost. Over the past few decades, though, new programs and support for migrants mean many workers aren’t staying in that system. In the first part of our series on the topic, we look at just where many of those workers are going.


Robbie Feinberg

On September 20th, Tillers International in Scotts will hold its annual Harvest Fest. Most years, the event is a celebration of local food and local farming. And a lot of that – the food, the music, the blacksmithing and wood working – that’s still there. But this year’s event is different. For the first time, Tillers is emphasizing its own efforts to teach old-fashioned farming techniques, both in the states and internationally.