"The documentary 'American Harvest' powerfully portrays the truth about agriculture and migrant labor in the United States at the present time. In a series of candid interviews with farmers and farmworkers from Florida to Maine the viewer objectively learns the facts and dispels the myths connected with migrant farmworkers. The film portrays the migrant reality that can’t be ignored and which is rarely seen by most people. It’s a must see if we are serious about the truth of migrant workers."
I attended a special showing of the film American Harvest at the Little Theatre and want to take issue with the writer of an earlier letter ("Don't give droves of criminals a pass"). The men and women who sow our fields and harvest our crops are not criminals.
The film, by Rochester filmmaker Angelo Mancuso, deals with the complacency of many regarding the backbreaking work it takes to get fresh fruits and vegetables to our supermarkets and to our tables. Growers from Florida to New York talk of their frustration at not being able to find farm labor locally and their survival as farmers depending on these "illegal" farmworkers.
Congress is currently discussing legislation that includes these 12 million to 14 million undocumented workers, and it is up to each of us to express our support for a humane bill that does not unfairly burden these men and women with excessive fines, having to return to their country of origin, etc. For their sake and ours, we must find a way to integrate them into our society and stop calling them criminals.
Democrat & Chronicle ~ Letter to the Editor
August 18 , 2007
A true account of migrant workers
I had the unique opportunity to watch American Harvest in my sociology class at Rochester Institute of Technology, and I must say it was one of the most innovative movies devoted to representing the migrant workers' situation in America.
Unlike other movies devoted to this subject, it shows the account in such a way that the truth is represented, without opinions and motives from the director. This film uses live accounts and facts to argue its case, while also showing the migrant workers' day at work. It gives an amazing perspective that every American should take into consideration.
I am a Mexican-American, a descendant of migrant workers, and I've had the opportunity to see the situation firsthand and hear accounts from my family who still work in the fields. I must say this is the truest account I have ever seen. This movie can be a catalyst to light a fire that will burn away the many misconceptions that American society has about migrant workers.
Public Libraries, K-12, Colleges and Universities visit American Harvest Academic Link for more information about buying the DVD with PPR or Public Performance Rights. Include American Harvest in your immigration or agriculture curriculums.
The documentary, American Harvest, examines the lives of migrant workers on farms across America. The film raises awareness among viewers so as to address critical social issues regarding our food supply and security, the work-force, and current U.S. immigration policies. Students in Sociology courses at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York had the opportunity to view the film and engage in discussion with the film-maker.
Students remarked that the film encouraged not just understanding, but action to promote social justice. Following the discussion, students wrote letters to the editor of the local newspaper expressing their thoughts on the diverse issues raised by the film. A student letter was subsequently published by the paper.
I would recommend American Harvest for viewing across college campuses. The film raises social awareness, encourages dialogue among students and community members, and ultimately contributes to constructive action for change.
Citizen of the State of Arizona
I enjoyed the documentary because of my past connection to farm workers in ag production in the southern NJ. I was a small grower of vegetable crops, and dealt with all the challenges of farming, such as marketing, weather, labor, etc. Now I live in Tucson, still promoting and developing agriculture for food production and have come to learn more clearly of the international labor issues.
The documentary was real for me, as it brought many experiences back into my thoughts. It also portrayed the situation of the workers and the growers and the buyer/shippers within the ag system quite well. Many people should have the opportunity to see this documentary to begin to understand the situation as reality. Many view AG as the ‘corporate’ farm that is highly mechanized and supported by USA govt, such as corn, wheat, rice, soybean, etc. We need hand labor to harvest all of our fresh vegetable and fruit products. The work is hard. There are easier job alternatives such as the service industry for similar wages. If our ag is lost, we will have to purchase food from other countries, much in the same manner as we do now for fossil fuels.
It is not a simple problem, but you have focused on one very important aspect.
Congratulations on the reception you’ve gotten from your recent screenings of “American Harvest.” I’m sure it has resonated with the audiences that have seen it as it did with our group earlier this summer.
Your film sheds much light on the current national debate over immigration policy. Those of us in agriculture have rarely seen such a balanced, forthright discussion of these issues in any medium. “American Harvest” provides much-needed perspective, one that encourages rational and reasonable debate.
Good luck in your efforts to get a wider audience for “American Harvest.” It should be seen by everyone who has thought even only briefly about the pending immigration legislation, as well as about how food gets from farm fields to dinner tables.
The people who work so hard to keep us well-fed deserve no less.
During the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to view a new documentary, AMERICAN HARVEST, as it was in the editing stages by filmmaker Angelo Mancuso. After watching a mere 10-minutes of the film, I knew that the topic of illegal immigrant farm workers in America was a strong story that needed to be told, and seen by the American public.
Since that time, the topic has been splashed across the front pages of our newspapers and been the lead story on the nightly news, as it is an on-going debate from local farming communities to the steps of Capitol Hill. AMERICAN HARVEST captures the heart of the debate, sharing the faces of the thousands of workers who are performing this difficult labor on our American farms and the stories of the farmers who cannot find the American labor force to help put food on our tables.
Mr. Mancuso has crafted a telling story that doesn’t take sides, but simply presents the story for what it is, leaving it to us the viewer, to make our own opinions on the subject.
The Little Theatre has been fortunate to host two screenings of the film to date, including a post-show talkback with Mr. Mancuso that was not only educational, but engaging for the audience which included members of the farming community in Rochester.
Based on our audience demand, we look forward to showing the film again in the near future.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and in the case of your excellent production, American Harvest, this is an under statement.
Congratulations on producing an accurate and real accounting of the life and times of American Agriculture and its dependency on migrant farm workers. You have been able to capture the human realities and the plight of a huge segment of America’s work force and brought to light the reluctance for Americans to do this work. So many Americans are misinformed today about the seriousness of a labor shortage in Agriculture, and are not aware of the consequence that they will feel if we can not harvest our crops. The inability of the US government to pass immigration reform that addresses this problem is evidence that the public is in the dark and refuses to see the light.
Your movie reveals the lives and the issues of legal and illegal immigrants and farmers working toward a better life, for all Americans.
My greatest desire is that your movie will be nationally distributed and that it will become the catalyst for acceptable immigration reform that will not only address the serious labor shortages, but will address the number of hard working laborers that are in our country and want to work.
Thank you, Angelo for making this issue a priority and for your dedication to help America Agriculture working.
Good Luck with your efforts to expand your audiences across the US.
My staff and I just viewed your documentary, American Harvest. Thank you for doing such an excellent job of conveying the dilemma the agricultural industry faces in trying to produce the worldís safest and most abundant food supply. Everyone agrees that our current immigration system is broken, but few offer a viable solution that reconciles our need for security with our need for a workforce.
The current immigration policy of enforcement-only, that has done nothing to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, has succeeded in creating and sustaining a cottage industry of human smuggling. These coyotes are the same people who smuggle drugs, guns, and other black market goods into our country. To them, human beings are just another product to transport.
Immigrants come to the United States simply to work and many of them, as your film shows, die in the attempt. By and large, these are not criminals or people that mean us harm. They are economic migrants. They come to this country to work in construction, restaurants, and perhaps most importantly agriculture. U.S. farmers rely on their labor, but our immigration laws are so obsolete that farmworkers must enter illegally to provide the labor to harvest our food.
More enforcement without provisions to provide industries like agriculture with a stable workforce would be a cure far, far worse than the disease. Those who want no more workers, no more visas, and no more immigration until we ëcontrol the bordersí have it backwards. We cannot and will not ëcontrol the borders until we open paths to legal entry and allow the market to succeed where enforcement-only has failed.
I would encourage all Americans to see your film. American Harvest encourages viewers to look at the immigration issue from the farmers and farmworkers viewpoints a side of the issue that is rarely if ever discussed. It is time to stop demonizing immigrant workers and admit the reality that they have become an integral part of our agricultural economy. They have some of the most grueling jobs in America, and we all benefit from their toil. Instead of demonizing them, we should help them and help ourselves by reforming our immigration system.
The labor crisis facing U.S. growers could be coming soon to a theater near you.
New York filmmaker Angelo Mancuso, with backing from three produce distributors, interviewed growers, packers, shippers and workers -- both legal and illegal -- from New York to Florida and also made stops in Texas, Arizona and Mexico. The result is the 100-minute documentary "American Harvest."
"The story is comprehensive, from small growers to big growers, to the place you would go to purchase your salads or vegetables," Mancuso said. "I want the audience to say, ‘That could have been on my table.'"
David Genecco, owner of Genecco Produce Inc., Canandaigua, N.Y. served as executive producer of the film.
Mancuso, who has worked on commercials and three small-budget features in a 12-year career in the film industry, said that despite the sources of his financial backing he worked hard to make sure the documentary is objective and not polarizing.
Of course, he has his own opinion about the need for immigration reform.
"This is important," he said. "Everybody eats, and everyone is affected by farmers. I don't understand how we as a society can hold the people who do so much for us in such disdain."
Mancuso said his own family history shaped his perspective on the issue. His grandfather, an Italian laborer, entered the country illegally in 1912 and later became a citizen.
Mancuso talked to a migrant worker in Nogales, Mexico, who struggled to enter the U.S. illegally but was caught and deported.
"It's an excellent portrayal of the plight of the guest workers in this country and shows how vitally important they are from coast to coast," said New York Apple Association president Jim Allen, who saw the film at a screening in the director's hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
Some notable interview subjects in the film include Theo Rumble, president, Fresh Start Produce Sales Inc., Delray Beach, Fla.; Bill Brim, owner and president of Lewis Taylor Farms Inc., Tifton, Ga.; and Gibbs Patrick Jr., chief executive officer, Gibbs Patrick Farms Inc., Omega, Ga. Other subjects include produce market managers in Laurel, Del.; Cordele, Ga.; and Plant City, Fla.
Mancuso said none of the local, state or federal politicians approached about the film would consent to an interview on the controversial subject.
"American Harvest" has been screened at the Delray Beach Film Festival and the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival. Mancuso said the documentary won't be screened for the public but will be shown to critics and distributors during a private screening Sept. 8 during the Toronto Film Festival.
"We're in the process of selling the film," he said. "It's our goal to get this film in theaters in the next few months before the November elections."
A trailer of the film is available online at www.americanharvestmovie.com.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Looks at Harvesting Hands: Immigration and the Agricultural Economy
As the grapes begin to be harvested from the vines and apples picked from the orchards in the region, Hobart and William Smith Colleges plan to take a closer look at issues surrounding many of those whose hands will do the harvesting and whose presence directly affects the economy, environment and legislation.
Three events -- a roundtable talk, film screening and panel discussion -- will take place on Thursday Sept. 27, and Friday the 28th, as part of “Immigration Reconsidered: A Community Forum.” The events have been organized between the Office of the President and Intercultural Affairs, in partnership with our neighbors from the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce, the state Agricultural Experiment Station and the New York State Farm Bureau.
“This is a great opportunity. We look forward to a discussion to bridge the gap with the community, which is immensely important considering we, as a campus, are part of the community,” said Assistant Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Alejandra Molina, director of the Intercultural Affairs Office. “We often forget, thus every so often need to be reminded, that we are a nation of immigrants.”
The conference will begin with the President’s Forum series welcoming filmmaker Angelo Mancuso for a screening and discussion of his film, “American Harvest” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. Mancuso’s film attempts to shed light on the changing face of the United States, particularly as it relates to agriculture, while pointing out inconsistencies in the current U.S. policy on immigration.
“Mancuso’s film as well as his presence on our campus is timely,” said President Mark D. Gearan. “He will be bringing to light problems on the national scale that resonate fully in our own community.”
Commenting on the theme of his film and the topics of the conference, Mancuso said American farmers “rely on immigrants to do jobs that Americans won’t do, or feel are simply beneath them. This is causing problems for many people, and most see the problems in the news only from the extreme points of view of the left and the right side of our political system.”
The film takes audiences from Florida to New York and then to the Mexican border, revealing the lives and issues of legal and illegal migrants and farmers working toward better lives. Mancuso will be on campus all day, meeting with students, faculty and staff individually and in small groups.
Earlier that day, a faculty and student discussion, “Why immigration? Why now?” will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Intercultural Affairs Center. Contributors will include Associate Professor of Economics Judith McKinney, Neeta Bhasin of the Writing and Rhetoric Program, and senior Rafeek Mohamed, as well as members of the Latin American student organization.
The conference will conclude with breakfast and a panel discussion from 8:45 to 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28 in the Geneva Room called “Immigration and the Finger Lakes Economy." Participants of the conference include Mancuso; Rob Gladden from the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce; Marc Smith of the Agricultural Experiment Station; Mark James, executive director of the New York Farm Bureau's Finger Lakes Office; Philip Povero, Ontario County Sheriff; Deb Brown of Half Dutch Farm; as well as a representative of the farm working community. This panel, moderated by President Gearan, is designed to bring together students, faculty and community members to talk about issues that affect all socio-economic groups.
Resolution Supporting AgJOBS
Co-written by the
Geneva NY Chamber of Commerce and the NY Farm Bureau
A recent award winner, this film explores illegal immigration as it relates to agriculture from a non-partisan political perspective.
The filmmaker shot extensively on the Tohono O'Odham Reservation, Sonora Mexico and Tucson as well as 15,000 miles traversing the country from Florida to Arizona to New York.
The objective of this movie is to educate while entertaining Americans of "the real truth about immigrant America," the importance of immigration reform, immigrants to our country and their role on America's farms.
AMERICAN HARVEST received a 2nd place Honorable Mention at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival March 30th!
You can view our trailer and find more details at http://www.americanharvestmovie.com/
American Harvest Synopsis
Anti-immigration sentiment sweeps across America. A journey from Florida to New York, including a trip to the Mexican border, reveals the lives and issues of legal and illegal migrants and farmers working toward a better life. Is the immigration system in America flawed? Immigrants are dying to feed America.
American farmers and agriculture rely on immigrants to do jobs that Americans won’t do or feel that are simply beneath them. Some only see the problems in the news from the perspective of those extreme points of view of the left and the right side of our political system.
Discrimination of immigrants has existed in the United States since the English persecuted the Irish. It was once generally considered that if you were Greek or Southern Italian you were not white.
American Harvest points out the inconsistencies of the current policy on immigration. See the changing face of immigrant America as it relates to Agriculture.
Follow legal and illegal farm workers and the farmers caught in the middle of a flawed immigration policy.
Colleges and Universities can use "American Harvest" as a part of their political science program. Contact us for more information.
Article on farming and farmworkers.
Agriculture is the oldest and most widely dispersed industry in the United States. However, the farmers and farmworkers who produce food and fiber are largely invisible to most Americans: only about 2 percent of the nation's 260 million people live on farms, and less than 3 percent of the nation's ninety million production workers are employed sometime during a typical year on farms.
Most Americans do not know any farmers or farmworkers; and most do not reflect on the different images conjured by two of the oldest occupations in the United States. The nation's two million mostly older white farmers are generally held in high esteem. The farm operator in his mid-50s, doing honest work in the fields while being subject to the vagaries of weather and markets, evokes empathy and enough political clout so that on average 20 percent of American farmers' net income comes from government payments.
Americans have a different image of farmworkers. Farmworkers are defined as persons who plant, cultivate, and harvest crops for wages, or who tend livestock and poultry as hired hands, or who operate and maintain farm machinery. In contrast to farmers, who are often considered living links to our founding fathers, farmworkers often bring to mind books and films with self-explanatory titles: American Harvest, The Grapes of Wrath, The Slaves We Rent, Sweatshops in the Sun, and Harvest of Shame.
Response to Newsday forum:
November 8, 2007
Yes, there are services that are over burdened, but there is also a positive side to this issue.
Here is what no one wants to here. THERE ARE JOBS AMERICANS WON'T DO! AND WORKING ON A FARM IS ONE OF THEM.
I continue to here that 'we all want immigration JUST LEGAL IMMIGRATION' I do too. AND SO DOES AMERICA'S FARMERS!
I spent 15,000 miles on road last year to shoot my documentary "American Harvest." Few people have had an opportunity to see all sides of the issue.
I am nonpartisan in nature. I think politics should be like a good game of golf. Stay in the fairway. Go too far left or right and you end up in the rough.
Unfortunately the system we have now is broken. It is impossible to keep up with the labor shortages in agriculture. I don't care were we are talking about in America. The problem is far worse the farther we are from our southern borders or were labor shortages are severe. The current H2A system in which a farmer can apply for LEGAL workers and has to pay for include, among other things, transportation to and from their home country, housing for the duration that they are in the U.S. and a wage rate as follows:
Courtesy of the US Dept. of Labor:
New Hampshire 9.50
New Jersey 9.29
New Mexico 8.27
New York 9.50
North Carolina 9.02
North Dakota 9.55
Rhode Island 9.50
South Carolina 8.51
South Dakota 9.55
West Virginia 8.65
The immigration levels in which most people insist upon knowing nothing about are far too low for our current U.S. economy. Unemployment is approximately 4%.
It is my hope that people like you reading this will look at all the facts before you continue to bite the hands that feed you. The U.S. farmer represents less than 1% of the American economy. In New York State alone New York Farm Credit estimates that 900 of the 35,000 farms in NY will go out of business due to labor shortages IN THE NEXT YEAR. It is also estimated that between 70 and 80% of all farm workers have a questionable document.
At what point do we as Americans say to our farmers THANK YOU FOR DOING A JOB WE DO NOT WANT TO DO?
Look around you and be honest. How many of you want your children to work on a farm instead of going to college? HOW MANY OF YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO WANTS TO WORK THE FARM. I AM SURE THAT THERE ARE SOME OF YOU, BUT NOT THE 100s OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE NEEDED TO WORK ON THE FARM.
Immigrants have always and will always continue to come here because the opportunity at $9 or $10 an hour is far better than $10 dollars a day they may earn in their home country.
All I am asking is to think about this. What do we do in 30 years if most of our farms go out of business and we end up importing our food from foreign counties? Continue with me further. What if in 30 years China is the new super power? What if there is a world conflict and they put embargo on our food source?
We can import our food or import our labor. Be careful what you wish for. THIS IS A MATTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY.
This problem has been growing for 50 years. Yes, there are people that should go to work instead of asking for an entitlement, but again this problem took 50 years to create and will not be solved overnight.
A bipartisan bill called AgJOBS has been proposed by both sides of the isle. I would ask that after you look at ALL the facts you consider supporting this bill. It is not an amnesty bill. It does allow anyone who has been working in agriculture to gain legal status. Here we go. We all want these workers to be legal. There is no automatic path to citizenship. It does allow farmers to legally employ the 100 of thousands of farmworkers who have fed you and me for years to stay and work.
This issue is far too complex to narrow down to a sound bite. Please take a look at the whole issue. That's why I made "American Harvest." I would suggest you take a look at our website.
There are a tremendous amount letters and endorsements supporting our nonpartisan approach. When it hits theaters you'll have an opportunity to see for yourself.
If I asked you why is it that American men and women can enlist in the armed service and risk their lives to defend our country when they're 18 but can't have a beer until they're 21, you might say that the law is broken and we need to fix it.
The same logic applies to our current immigration policy. Our American farmers deserve better.
People are talking about immigration.
That's why you need to see AMERICAN HARVEST.
Immigration and Agriculture
have never been
so inexorably tied.
Award winning documentary AMERICAN HARVEST. "Look for it. It's what a documentary should be."
American Harvest screened for the New York State Legislature at the NYS Capitol June 19th. Angelo Mancuso introduced on the Assembly floor.
Screened at the Montrose Theater in Montrose, Pennsylvania June 18th at 7:30pm. Supported by Susquehanna County Farm Bureau and Susquehanna County Cooperative Extension.
"American Harvest" opened June 6th with a special screening June 7th at 6:30 featuring a Q&A with Sister Janet Korn of Catholic Charities and Jim Allen President of the New York State Apple Growers Association along with Angelo Mancuso at the Little Theater in Rochester, NY.
Mancuso is a guest speaker at the NCAE Annual Meeting on Capitol Hill on January 24th. "I would encourage all Americans to see your film. American Harvest encourages viewers to look at the immigration issue from the farmers and farmworkers viewpoints a side of the issue that is rarely if ever discussed." Mike Gempler, President
Angelo Mancuso interviewed on the Dennis Miller Radio Show January 10th. Check out the DMZ. "I like the cut of Angelo's jib if for no other reason than he wanted to produce a fact based documentary and apolitical film." Dennis Miller.
Nick Francesco "White Hot Films last night debuted a new documentary by local filmmaker Angelo Mancuso. It's called American Harvest, and it's about the lives of migrant farm workers, both legal and illegal.
That's polarizing stuff these days, but Mancuso walks a non-political line between the sides of the debate. He talks to legal and illegal immigrants as well as to the farm owners, business owners, and families who hire them. He lets them tell their own stories, and those stories ring true.
Mancuso varies the stories – each group gets to tell its own stories. They do so with simplicity and power – they're not pushing an agenda, they're just telling the truth. And it shows.
Mancuso builds his narrative slowly and carefully, bringing us both the joys and the heartaches of the life of the immigrant. By the time the illegals get to tell their story, you have, if not a sympathy, at least an understanding of their plight and why they'd risk everything to come here to work. Even more poignant are the American citizens, sons and grandsons of immigrants, who not only understand how vital they are to the American economy, but are proud of their place in it. You'll smile with the immigrants who love their lives, and your heart will break along with the farmer who is looking at ruin simply because nobody is available to pick his harvest.
There are two types of documentaries – those that push a specific agenda, and those that simply try to show us the truth of a situation, and let us decide for ourselves how we feel about that. Mancuso has crafted an excellent example of that second type. But whether you bring to this film your own bias – in either direction – or look at it with an open mind, you will be moved by the power in this narrative.
The film is called American Harvest. Look for it; it's what a documentary should be."
After viewing your documentary American Harvest, I wanted to thank you and your crew for your heartfelt depiction of the immigration crisis that currently faces the United States. Your film successfully captures the plight of migrant workers and the symbiotic relationship that has developed between them and American farmers.
The Eisenhower Institute is excited to screen your film at Gettysburg College in front of a large audience comprised of students, faculty, and the general public. We hope that the film sparks debate amongst the Gettysburg community and attracts wider attention to the imperative issue of immigration. As you know, change only occurs when partisan politics are abandoned and rational debate takes place. The Eisenhower Institute strives to host forums for civic discourse on significant issues of public policy that bridge the perspectives of scholars, policy makers, students, and citizens.
'American Harvest' shows plights of immigrants, farmers
PITTSFORD -- Before screening an immigration documentary at Nazareth College on April 14, Angelo Mancuso asked how many of the students in attendance planned to enter the agricultural field.
The answer was none.
Mancuso, director and producer of "American Harvest," said the student response was just further proof of the challenges faced by farmers and growers in the United States. Many of those interviewed for "American Harvest" said they have little choice when it comes to hiring their workforce -- largely Mexican immigrants -- whether documented or not. Without them, the future of American agriculture is bleak, and food exports and prices will continue to increase, many of them said throughout the film.
"The story Angelo portrayed is reality," said Ed Schoen, owner of Schoe-Acres dairy farm in Phelps, who was a last-minute addition to the speaker panel that led a discussion following the screening in Linehan Chapel. "It’s not hype. These (immigrants) are wonderful people who want to work. ... They care for the job they do. They take pride in their work. They are not out to damage this country."
Along with Schoen and Mancuso, the panel included Father Jesus Flores, the Diocese of Rochester’s coordinator of Migrant Ministry; Sister Luci Romero, a migrant minister based in Sodus, Wayne County; and Ami Kadar, interim director of the Albion-based farmworker advocacy group Centro Independiente para Trabajadores Agricolas. The screening was cosponsored by the diocese's Parish Support Ministries, diocesan Catholic Charities and Nazareth’s multicultural-affairs office.
Following the screening, Schoen emphasized that a large majority of the "illegal immigrants" in this country arrived with documents, which likely expired and they just never left. The answer to this debate, therefore, is not the longer, taller fences that have been part of recent federal legislative proposals, he said.
"I know very well the need for border security," Mancuso said. "But these issues aren’t black and white."
Mancuso knows of what he speaks when it comes to immigration.
His father died when his mother was pregnant with him, so Mancuso’s grandparents stepped in to help raise him. His grandfather was an immigrant from Italy who arrived in the United States illegally, he said.
Because of that experience, Mancuso told the audience of more than 100 people that he sought to create a film that would give people the facts to make their own decisions on the immigration debate. The film is dedicated "to the immigrants who built this great nation," he said.
He and his film crew traveled more than 15,000 miles to more than 15 states and Mexico to make the film. Production began in May 2006 and was completed a year later. In the film, Mancuso interviewed growers, shippers, vendors and produce brokers as well as farmworkers from Mexico, immigration activists and an Ellis Island historian.
One group of Mexicans is shown as they reached the Arizona border. They are able to reach out to a family member in Los Angeles -- using the film crew’s cell phone -- only to be informed that the relative could not help them. Moments later, a siren blares. Immigration officers arrive and shut down the film’s taping.
That persecution is a daily reality for immigrants in our area, Sister Romero said.
"We can't live with all this suspicion," she said.
Seeing so many people’s interest in the film, however, gives her hope, Sister Romero added.
"Solidarity with each other does still exist," she said.
Many of the growers repeatedly said in the film that it is migrant workers that allow for the United States to have the cheapest food supply in the world. They see few Americans willing to step up and work the fields as needed despite the complaints they hear about illegal immigration.
"The vast majority of people we depend upon are from Mexico, that come and harvest these crops," Theo Rumble of Fresh Start Produce Brokers of Georgia said in the film. "And, some of them are legal, some of them are illegal. And, do we know who's legal and who's illegal? No. We really don't. I'm not a document expert, and I'm not going to become one, either."
"We’re in a crisis situation," Mark James, executive director of the New York Farm Bureau’s Finger Lakes office, remarked in the documentary. "There may be far fewer farmers tomorrow than there are today if we don’t solve some of these (labor) issues in the U.S."
James said a guest-worker program is desperately needed as well as reductions in the backlog of H-2A visa applications, which allow farmers a certain number of migrant workers for a set period of time.
Schoen concurred with James and said politicians need to order a "time-out" on the raids and deportations of migrant workers -- which activists and farmers agree have been on the rise -- until an acceptable reform plan is adopted.
The ramifications of those raids on agriculture are already being felt, Kadar said, as a tomato farmer in Pennsylvania recently announced plans to cut tomato crops because of the lack of workers due to increased immigration enforcement.
Coincidentally, Schoen pointed out that those that decry the estimated 12 million immigrants living and working in this country should realize that number represents the population size of the state of Pennsylvania.
"Think of the buying power, think of the person power," Schoen said. "Now, take that away from the economy. ... It would be horrendous."
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information about the film or upcoming screenings, visit www.americanharvestmovie.com.
‘American Harvest’ Makes Compelling Case for Migrant Workers March 28, 2008
Chris Torres, Staff Writer
Editor’s note: As a film review, this article contains some opinions of the writer.
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — At an hour and 40 minutes long, the film “American Harvest” gives a compelling argument about the need for immigration reform and the need for a migrant workforce in agriculture.
Director Angelo Mancuso, a native of Rochester, N.Y., spent nine months on the road in 2006, going from farm to farm, catching the harvest in various states such as Florida, Georgia, Delaware and his native New York.
He traveled 15,000 miles, visited 15 states and two countries and interviewed hundreds of people in his quest to document the impact migrant workers have on agriculture.
The message that came out in the film was clear — we as Americans would suffer without the migrant workforce doing the jobs we don’t want to do.
Instead of using talking heads and politicians to tell the story, Mancuso chose to tell the story through the eyes of people on the front lines of the debate.
The film is unnarrated and is interlaced with a little bit of music for color. But the stars of the film are the people telling their real stories. Their was no animation, no clever graphics. Just real people, talking.
Their stories were, at times, gutwrenching. Numerous migrants described how they left their homes with just the shirt on their back — no money, no food, no extra clothing — just to get a job so they could better support their families back home in Mexico and in other countries. Many of the migrants faced harsh conditions when they got to the border. They described how difficult it was getting the documentation to make their trip into the U.S. a lawful one, even though their goal was to get here legally in the first place.
Social workers described the plight these workers face in their native countries, from waiting days outside of an office to see an official to finding out the countless amount of papers they need to become legal immigrants. Desperate and in need, many end up making the fateful trip across the border as illegals. Some never make it, succumbing to the intense desert heat of the Southwest or becoming victims of violent crimes.
Former migrant workers, who eventually became U.S. citizens, talked about their struggles becoming citizens; the money they had to spend, the countless hours learning the language and the struggle to be reunited with their families.
A historian from Ellis Island put into perspective the impact migrant workers have had on this country ever since it was founded.
And farmers talked about how difficult it is getting domestic workers and how the shrinking workforce leaves them no choice but to hire migrants, legal or illegal.
When asked what would happen if the migrant workforce would one day disappear, a farmer said it would mark “the end” for U.S. agriculture.
A farmer from New York shared the impact migrant workers have had on his farm, losing almost his entire crop in 2006 because his workers were taken away by immigration agents.
But as much as the film argues for the migrant worker and the need for immigration reform, it does little to include the other side of the issue. Perhaps Mancuso would have benefited from including a town like Hazelton, Pa. in his film, where local officials have cracked down on illegal immigrants, citing increased crime problems.
It also would have been nice to see him interview some police officers and immigration agents on the frontline so they could tell their stories.
And it’s not only fruit and vegetable growers who rely on migrant workers. Dairy farmers, especially in Pennsylvania and New York, rely heavily on migrant workers to milk, feed and clean out stalls. But the film focuses mainly on the produce industry.
Nonetheless, people attending a special screening of “American Harvest” at the Majestic Theater on Wednesday night — which was packed to the brim — left the theater with a better appreciation of the impact migrant workers have on agriculture.
Gettysburg College student Beth Mounsey, 19, heard of the movie through a Spanish class she is taking at school.
She never realized how much agriculture relied on migrant workers until she saw the film. “It opened my eyes because I really didn’t know how much of a problem it really is,” she said.
For Adams County grower Ed McDannell of Biglerville, the film hit close to home.
Every year, McDannell faces the same struggles many of the farmers in the film face, getting work for the harvest. When the time comes to harvest his 100 acres of fruit each fall, he hires about 10 workers, all of them migrants.
Because of the lack of local workers, McDannell said he has no choice unless he wants to see his crop fizzle. He hopes others will see the film and get an appreciation for an issue he has known about for years.
“I hope a lot of other people see this because it reiterates things I already knew,” he said. “Without those workers, we’d lose our crop. It’s exactly what would happen. I’m glad to see that somebody is coming out in the forefront and bringing the issue out.”
NIAGARA FALLS — Anti-immigration sentiment is nothing new in the United States, but Angelo Mancuso said its affect on America’s kitchen table may well be.
New York Farm Bureau members and staff packed the tiny Governor’s Amphitheater at the Niagara Falls Conference Center during the 2007 Annual Meeting to screen “American Harvest,” Mancuso’s independent film about the flaws and inconsistencies of the current U.S. policy on immigration and how it relates to agriculture. “It brings the issue into focus,” said NYFB President John Lincoln. “More people should see it.”
NYFB’s Mark James, executive director of the regional office that represents the Finger Lakes counties, is featured in the film. He said without immigrant farm labor, the cheap, high-quality food the American public expects to find in supermarkets would not exist.
In making the film, Mancuso, a Rochester native, logged 15,000 miles from May – October 2006, following migrants, both legal and illegal, through Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, New York and New Jersey. He and his crew also spent time in Nogales, Mexico, which borders Arizona and acts as an entry point for many Mexican farm workers.
Mancuso said “the film is not controversial; the issue is controversial.”
He said he was careful to craft “American Harvest” in such a way that it “doesn’t take sides” or draw negative attention to the growers, brokers, migrant farm workers or others he interviewed in the process. His goal was to tell the stories of the workers and the farmers who now depend almost exclusively on labor from Mexico, Haiti and other countries to harvest and package their crops.
Seneca County Farm Bureau member Cameron Hosmer, owner of Hosmer Winery in Ovid, appears in the film with James. Mancuso interviewed the two on a chilly morning in Hosmer’s vineyard about how he is impacted by immigration.
Hosmer said his business depends on a labor force willing to work hard for what he sees as fair pay – up to $300 a day for some who put in 10 hour days to tend the vine-yards or harvest grapes.
Even though the money is good, he said, the only people willing to do the job are immigrant farm workers. Without them, Hosmer said he would be out of business.
Mancuso, who made the film without studio backing, sent “American Harvest” to 35 film festivals for consideration and had two accept.
“The subject is not glamorous,” he said of the movie. "and it's extremely important."
Still, “American Harvest” earned honorable mention at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival and was an official selection at the Delray Beach Film Festival. It has also been screened at Rochester ’s Little Theatre, where Executive Director Bob Russell said Mancuso “presents the story for what it is, leaving it up to the viewer to make our own opinions on the subject.”
The film was also screened at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva Sept. 27, 2007, as part of the colleges’ immigration conference, and at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Mancuso hopes those who see “American Harvest” will realize “there are people who get up at 4 a.m. to feed them, and that they’re doing something that we’re not teaching our kids to do.”
He said the time has come to remind people that there is value and importance to all work, and that America ’s access to domestically-produced food depends on migrant farm workers who deserve an immigration policy divorced from politics.
OPEN LETTER TO WHAM TALK SHOW HOST BOB LONSBERRY AND PRODUCER NICK DITUCCI.
July 12th, 2007
Good to speak to you. There is more info about our film on the link below. Your WHAM film critic Nick Francesco said in his review of "American Harvest" - "whether you bring to this film your own bias – in either direction – or look at it with an open mind, you will be moved by the power in this narrative ... It's what a documentary should be." You can read and listen to his review on our website. Nick is a very smart man.
We invited WHAM talk show host Bob Lonsberry to our Rochester screening on June 4th by email on two occasions prior to the event. He did not respond.
I was listening to your show today as he discussed how the farmer is the bad guy for simply trying to stay in business in this current environment of labor shortages and undocumented migrant workers.
Bob continues to be clearly off base. Does he just listen to other talk show hosts and pundits and repeat what they say? Living in Mt. Morris you would think Bob would have knowledge of what a farmer goes through to get a crop. The way he treats farmers, I would be surprised if there was a farmer alive that would let him hunt on their land.
Perhaps if Bob would have come to the screening he might have been able to get educated on the subject.
Would he like to have a comprehensive and intelligent conversation about the immigration issue and farming in America?
Immigration reform is necessary in America and I hope that more moderate and cooler heads will prevail.
Check out our website.
*NOTE FOR OUR READERS.
Bob Lonsberry declined our request to discuss the issue with us.
City Newspaper "many don't consider how the food relates to immigration issues."
DOCUMENTARIES: New film links food to immigration
By Dale Evans on May. 29th, 2007
For many Americans, the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the first picnics of the season: picnics that include fresh produce turned into comfort foods like potato and macaroni salads, corn on the cob, and watermelon slices. People fill their carts at grocery stores or stuff bags at the Public Market and Advertisementdon't give a thought as to how the stuff got there. And many certainly don't consider how the food relates to immigration issues.
Filmmaker Angelo Mancuso never gave it a thought, either. A native Rochesterian, he was deep in production on another project when he was approached by a friend wanting to invest in a movie about agriculture and illegal immigration. For Mancuso, a second-generation Italian-American, the immigration angle hit home. And as he began to research the film that would become "American Harvest," the issue became more and more important to him.
Although advocates on both sides of the immigration issue have valid points of view, he says, both often omit what doesn't reflect their position. So he set out to make a film that would give viewers a bigger picture.
The 100-minute feature documentary was shot along the East Coast from New York to Florida and along the Mexican border. Mancuso interviewed legal and illegal migrant workers, farmers, produce brokers, suppliers, wholesalers, and consumers. (None of the politicians he approached agreed to grant interviews, Mancuso says, nor did representatives of US Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security.)
Estimates of the number of undocumented workers in the US range as high as 12 to 14 million, and many of them work in agriculture. That makes the debate more than an immigration issue, Mancuso says. Mancuso cites the plight of one farmer he spoke to who oversees 5000 acres. The farmer needs approximately 700 workers to harvest his crop, and only 15 to 20 American citizens apply. Without hiring migrant workers, there would be no harvest.
"We are no longer connected to our food source," Mancuso says, and he asks viewers to imagine being completely dependent upon other countries to supply their food.