Farmer perceptions of climate, adaptation, and management of farmworker risk in California


  • Gail Wadsworth California Institute for Rural Studies
  • Heather E. Riden University of California, Davis
  • Kent E. Pinkerton University of California, Davis



Agriculture, Climate Change, Farmworker Health, Extreme Weather


Adaptation across systems[1] in agriculture is essen­tial for sustainability under ongoing climate change. Farmers and agricultural employers implement changes in their work (e.g., mechanization, chang­ing crops, managing workspaces) in ways that may directly impact worker health. In this study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with farmers and farm labor contractors in three agriculturally productive regions of California. We investigated (1) how farmers view changing climate in terms of worker safety and health; (2) how they are currently adapting to long-term weather patterns; (3) how their choices of management practices might impact their workers; (4) how they view their responsibility for their workers; and (5) what their overall observations are concerning environmental changes. Many employers made a clear distinction between weather and climate but not all agreed on whether they were experiencing climate change. Heat was notably the biggest climate hazard farm­ers identified. Most of the employers interviewed were proud of their longevity and ability to adapt to changing conditions in the field; however, they did not have established emergency procedures. Despite regulations that put the onus on employ­ers, most participants believed that workers needed to take individual responsibility to keep themselves safe in the workplace. This research is one step in an ongoing research process designed to address the impacts of health and safety for agricultural workers in the context of climate change.

[1] We use the term “agricultural system” to refer to any system that produces livestock and crops, including the social, political, and economic components of that system.


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Author Biographies

Gail Wadsworth, California Institute for Rural Studies

Executive Director (retired)

Heather E. Riden, University of California, Davis

Program Director, Agricultural Health and Safety

Kent E. Pinkerton, University of California, Davis

Director, Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety



How to Cite

Wadsworth, G., Riden, H., & Pinkerton, K. (2022). Farmer perceptions of climate, adaptation, and management of farmworker risk in California. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(2), 179–198.