History & Accomplishments




Look back at SAF's 25 year timeline
of working with young activists
to improve farmworker lives




Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) traces its history to the 1970s when child psychiatrist Dr. Robert Coles and professor Bruce Payne led twelve Duke students in a summer-long Migrant Project, investigating conditions in NC migrant camps, testifying before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and successfully lobbying for the creation of NC Farmworker Legal Services. In the early 1980s, Payne and other faculty and students at Duke founded the Interns in Conscience project of the Hart Leadership Program, and groups of students went to southern Florida during summer breaks to work with agencies serving farmworkers.

In 1990, a grant from the US Department of Education to the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke funded college student volunteers documenting the lives of migrant farmworker children. Fourteen Duke students in the summer of 1990 and eleven more in 1991 participated in the Center's Migrant Summer Program along with several UNC students. In 1992 students from Duke and UNC participated in a joint service-learning class about farmworker issues and the summer internship program.

Carolyn Corrie, a summer 1990 intern, worked with students, farmworker advocates, farmworkers, and community members to incorporate SAF as a nonprofit in 1992. Since 1992, SAF has directly impacted thousands of farmworkers, students and community members:

  • Over 100,000 farmworkers and their family members have gained access to health, legal, and education resources provided by SAF interns and fellows in the Carolinas,
  • Nearly 1000 college students from universities across the country and youth in NC have learned about farmworker rights and advocated for farmworker justice as a result of SAF leadership programs,
  • More than 150 community organizations and university groups have partnered with SAF on critical issues such as migrant housing reform and access to higher education for immigrant students,
  • Thousands of individuals are more aware of farmworker issues and more empowered to take action because of SAF's community engagement work, including National Farmworker Awareness Week,
  • Farmworkers live and work under more dignified conditions because of SAF’s successful advocacy in support of migrant housing and pesticide reform and solidarity with farm labor organizing groups that have won contracts yielding higher wages, grievance procedures, and human rights on the job.



  • SAF celebrates 25 years of working with young activists to improve farmworker lives with a series of exhibits and events.
  • SAF received the GSK IMPACT Award for our work addressing critical community health challenges.
  • SAF received the Latino Diamante Award in the area of Art & Culture for our documentaries, theater, mural, exhibitions, and storytelling that lift up the contributions and traditions of farmworkers and their families.


  • SAF is honored with the Farmworker Activism Award by Farmworker Justice for our work educating, mentoring and mobilizing students from middle school through the university level to support a more just agricultural labor system.
  • SAF is named a Fundraising Bright Spot in a study commissioned by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund for our work achieving breakthrough results in raising resources for social change.
  • SAF Executive Director Melinda Wiggins was selected as 1 of 14 nonprofit leaders from across the country to assist the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations in supporting effective philanthropy.


  • Nadeen Bir-Zaslow, SAF’s Advocacy & Organizing Director, is selected as a Southern Foodways Alliance 2015 Smith Symposium Fellow and honored for her impact on the southern region and its foodways.
  • The Adelante Education Coalition is awarded the 2015 Latino Diamante Award for making significant contributions to the Latino/Hispanic community of North Carolina.


  • The Farmworker Advocacy Network, of which SAF is a founding member, was honored with the 2014 Indy Citizen Award.
  • FAN’s Harvest of Dignity film receives the “Best Documentary/Topical” award in the Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards.
  • SAF’s Levante Leadership Institute recognized as a Finalist for the 2014 Examples of Excelencia award as one of the most effective in the nation at increasing Latino student success.  
  • SAF launches the Solidaridad internship program to train students on the farmworker justice movement and gain nonprofit leadership skills by working in the SAF office.
  • SAF receives the Research Triangle Cross-Class Bridge Builder award for our work with people of diverse classes and races and supporting the leadership of working class people.


  • SAF is the community partner recipient of Duke’s Betsy Alden Outstanding Service-Learning Award.


  • SAF celebrates 20 years of growing farmworker activists
  • SAF received the NC Folklore Society’s 2012 Community Traditions Award for twenty years of producing collaborative documentary work between students and agricultural workers and their communities in North Carolina.
  • SAF Director Melinda Wiggins was honored by the White House as a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change for dedicating herself to improving the lives of others throughout her community and across the nation.


  • SAF was honored as one of five winners of the 2011 AARP Multicultural Outreach Award for their contributions to diversity and inclusion, focusing on marginalized people.


  • SAF won Glaxo Smith Kline's 2nd Annual Impact Award in recognition of our outstanding achievements in providing access to healthcare for the underserved
  • SAF received $100,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation in celebration of their 10th anniversary to further our impact, providing farmworkers with access to existing health care providers


  • SAF received the 2009 Nonprofit Sector Stewardship Award, given out annually by the NC Center for Nonprofits


  • SAF won the annual Community Partner Award from the APPLES Service Learning Program at UNC- Chapel Hill


  • SAF Executive Director, Melinda Wiggins, was awarded Outstanding Adult Ally/Mentor for Young Nonprofit Workers for developing the leadership of young people, many of whom have chosen to continue working in the social sector as a result
  • SAF received the NCYT Spark Award for Outstanding Non-Profit to work For, for its workplace culture, emphasis on anti-oppression work, and creative organizing strategies
  • The Farmworker Advocacy Network (SAF is a member) won the Policy Research and Advocacy Defenders of Justice Award from the NC Justice Center


  • SAF received an Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award for its role engaging a new generation of activists through the annual Student Labor Week of Action.
  • SAF received the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award from World Hunger Year for its innovative, creative approaches to fighting hunger and poverty in the U.S.


  • SAF was awarded a Promising Practices Award by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.


  • SAF was awarded a Defenders of Justice Award from the North Carolina Justice and Community Development Center for its work fighting against poverty in the area of grassroots empowerment.
  • SAF Executive Director Melinda Wiggins was awarded the first NC Community Shares Leadership Award for her long-term commitment to supporting Shares' and its member social justice organizations.


  • SAF was awarded the Fund for Southern Communities' Helen's Fund Award for our work with young people in the South


  • SAF was awarded the Fund for Southern Communities' Helen's Fund Award for our work with young people in the South.


  • SAF was recognized by the Migrant Health Program of the Bureau of Primary Health Care for our dedication and commitment to our nation's migrant farmworkers and their families.


  • SAF was awarded the first Peace Prize from the North Carolina Peace Corps Association for our work helping people to help themselves, and promoting peace and cross-cultural understanding.