I Am | I See | I Think | I Wonder: 2015 Documentary Work

Through oral history interviews and portraits of farmworkers, 22 SAF students conducted documentary work with farmworkers in the Southeast during the summer of 2015, focusing on the theme I Am, I See, I Think, I Wonder. Students used these prompts to interview workers about their personal stories/ identity and also stories of work. They asked who workers are, how they identify, what workers see in the fields, what they think about farm work, what they wonder about conditions and how things can change.

Watch a slideshow of their collected work here.

Click here to view the slideshow with quotes in Spanish, the original language in which interviews were conducted.

Farmworker Voices

I am a farmworker before any other occupation.”

I see… they say sweet potato is very rushed, very hurried… I don’t know how to say it. They pay you 45 cents per bucket and they say they’re so big. But the thing is that you have to be rushing around all day and when you go back to your room, you’re cramping up, it hurts, you don’t want to get up. You’re running and crouching, you kneel down. That’s what they say. The boss himself showed us a video, and yes… it scares you a little. Sometimes work, how should I put it? It’s not work that’s so hard, what is hard is the pay. That is what is discouraging.”

I think that I like it because you don’t realize that you are watching tobacco grow because you plant it this small and it grows little by little and you see it day by day.”

“…I wonder what my future would be like if I still worked with my dad in the fields or what I could have become if I could have kept studying…"

I wonder… will it be like this my entire life? Being separated… far away from family?”

“Something I think about a lot? I think about my family. It’s the thing I miss the most.”

“I wonder… something that I’d like to change… the pay, the pay, for sure. You’re like, this is hard and they pay you so little. At 45 cents, you’re like, I have to do like 200 buckets of sweet potato to make 100 dollars. And I imagine that to do 200 buckets a day you have to [laughs] almost go without drinking water… I don’t know why farmwork, which is harder, pays so much less.” 

I think that one day the labor of farmworkers will be valued.”

Student Voices

"We wanted to interview Cristian because of how obvious it is that he loves farmwork, and how proud he is of being a campesino. He’s always telling us stories from the fields, and showing us pictures and videos. In fact, the first time we went to try to interview him, we spent the whole hour and a half with him showing us pictures from his (many) cell phones. I was touched by how excited he was to share his stories with us. It was very obvious how interested he was in the work he did, the different crops he’d worked in, and the many places he’d been.”
– Caroline LaFave, 2015 SAF intern

"During our second interview, Demetrio showed us pictures of his newborn son who still doesn’t have a name. He seemed proud and sad at the same time. We asked about what he wondered and at first, he said he didn’t ask himself or wonder anything, but after we explained the prompt again and gave a few examples, he said he wondered every day if the rest of his life would be like this, separated and away from his family. The room felt dense, almost like you could feel the weight that he carries. It’s not just that he has to miss big and important family moments like the birth of a child, but it’s knowing everyday his children are growing up, trying new things and learning about themselves and the people that they want to become, while he’s not there to see or influence it."
– Catherine Crowe, 2015 SAF Fellow