KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It’s a busy time for the tomato-producing farms in this part of the state. Farms have staffed up with hundreds of workers, most of whom are Latino. Some live locally. Others are migrant workers who travel from farm to farm, chasing the summer growing seasons. Still others come from Mexico or Central America on temporary agricultural visas to work at certain farms.
But, this year, the season is taking place under a cloud of coronavirus worries that, for these agricultural workers, hit close to home.
“Almost every part of the process for picking tomatoes needs to be considered in light of COVID-19,” said Ken Silver, an associate professor of environmental health at East Tennessee State University, who studies migrant worker health on Tennessee tomato farms.
After all, the workers live in close quarters, sleeping in bunk beds, and sharing bathrooms and kitchens. They ride crowded buses to