During summer 2019, I worked as a freelance photojournalist for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting on a story about migrant farm workers in Missouri's Bootheel. The report detailed an instance of worker abuse in the area during the previous year, while the photos show an essay of H2-A workers in the field and related elements.
A crew of H-2A workers rides the bus out of the field July 4 in Missouri’s Bootheel. Workers come through every summer to harvest watermelon and cantaloupe.
The former Dunklin County Jail stands in Kennett, Missouri on July 2, 2019. In 2018, a crew of H2-A workers was housed in the former jail after being moved out of a dirty, pest infested motel.
A worker picks ripe cantaloupe July 4 in the Bootheel. The crew had arrived about nine days previously, but had not worked the last six days because the crop was not ripe yet.
Many of the workers harvesting on July 4 in the Bootheel were on Agricultural or H-2A visas that allowed them to work legally in the United States for months at a time.
The crew will remain in the Bootheel for roughly a month and a half before traveling north to continue harvesting in the Midwest.
Crew members begin harvesting the cantaloupe around 9 a.m. July 4 in the Bootheel. They worked for two hours before stopping to get water and take a lunch break.
Members of the crew who picked the melons on would often toss the fruit to the next person in line as the whole crew walked through the field.
A worker catches a cantaloupe as it is thrown into a bus July 4 in the Bootheel. The crews are split into teams, about 11 people to a bus: one driver, two people catching and stacking the fruit, and eight men in the field picking the crop as the bus drives slowly down the field and back.
The temperature was 86 degrees Fahrenheit at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, 2019 while the crews were working, with 75 percent humidity, according to the National Weather Service.
Juan Toscano sits outside of the 84 West Motel on July 3, 2019 in Kennett, Missouri. Toscano and his wife own the Motel. Marin originally told state regulators his crew would stay at the 84 West Motel, but the crew only moved in when Marin was ordered to house them there.
Pete Wimberley carries a watermelon at his fruit and vegetable stand on July 3, 2019 in Sikeston, Missouri. Pete is a fourth generation farmer who owns about 250 acres near Kennett, Missouri and more near Sikeston.