Over the course of a week, in the midst of the pandemic, photographer Wesaam al-Badry drove almost 1,600 miles, by his estimation, visiting several small farming towns in California’s Central Valley in late April. Along the way, he met with farmworkers: tangerine pickers in Sanger (San Joaquin Valley) and broccoli pickers in Watsonville.
“I engaged with them and their families in firsthand conversations about their concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic … their fears and their futures,” says al-Badry. “Most wore only bandanas, rarely masks; nothing was provided to them in terms of face coverings. Rarely were they instructed on social distancing. Mostly, the job makes it difficult to do so, though sometimes they work on their own. They live in labor camps paying a monthly rent which is subtracted from their pay.”
As al-Badry explains, the focus of this project was to show that “there are real people with hopes and fears” behind the fresh fruits and vegetables Americans continue to demand in their supermarkets and enjoy eating no matter the season. “I wanted to show that the farmworkers are not just a number or an ambiguous ‘labor force.’"