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Interpreting the Evidence

Chart Showing Interstate Agricultural Workers: Crops and Worker Ethnicity, 1971

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Contemporary United States (1965 - present)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Chart Showing Interstate Agricultural Workers: Crops and Worker Ethnicity, 1971 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Chart of estimated peak population of interstate workers by employment service local office, ethnic group, date of peak, arrival and departure dates, and major crops, New York, 1971
Historical Context
Much of New York’s land is covered with rich soil and low rolling hills that make it ideal for farming. Over one-quarter of New York is used to raise agricultural products, such as corn, carrots, onions, tomatoes, snap beans, cabbage, apples, strawberries, blueberries, and pears. Grapes grown in the Finger Lakes region, the Hudson Valley, and on Long Island have resulted in a booming wine industry. Dairy farming upstate is also important to the economy. Today, Suffolk County has the largest agricultural sales followed by Wyoming, Cayuga, Genesee, and Wayne counties. Throughout the years migrants have been lured to New York, especially during the harvest season, to meet the high demands for farm workers.

Many migrants are illegal immigrants who travel from their homeland to earn seasonal wages. They move as the need to pick a different crop presents itself. Some migrants are legal immigrants and some are American-born. In almost all cases, the wages they receive are low and benefits non-existent. Since children of migrants seldom put down roots, their education is inconsistent and marginal at best. Most workers do not complain of poor treatment because they do not have a union, they seldom stay long enough to bring any charges, and those that are illegal fear being turned in and deported.

Current estimates put the number of hired farm laborers in New York at approximately 47,000, although there is not much data on migrant farm workers available. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, offers a unique course devoted to migrant farm labor in America. Part of the program involves students teaching English to the mostly Mexican laborers who do not speak the language.
Essential Question
How do migrant workers impact local economies?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the key ideas found in this chart and explain the impact of migrant workers on local communities.
Historical Challenges
Locate an outline map of New York State that shows counties. Take the information from the chart and show where the various crops are grown. Create a title and key.
Many people think that New York is urban since they associate New York State with New York City. Write a description of the state emphasizing the rural characteristics of areas outside of New York City. Create a travel brochure.
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a journal of a child your age who has parents who are migrant workers. Write two pages of entries in January, two in April, and two in September.
Math: Make a pie chart showing the percentage of Southern black, Mexican American, and Puerto Rican migrant workers employed in New York in 1971.