The Hernandezes are one of 45 migrant families sending their children to Grand Haven Area Public Schools this year, and they are among the growing population of seasonal and migrant workers making Michigan a temporary home.
The 2013 Michigan Update Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Enumeration Profiles Study found that the number of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the state has increased by 7.28 percent since 2006 – with an estimated 49,135 farmworkers during the peak of harvest season.
A seasonal worker is defined as someone whose main employment is in agriculture on a seasonal basis. A migrant worker meets the same criteria, yet establishes temporary residence.
An estimated 4,754 migrant workers and 2,196 seasonal workers live in Ottawa County.
Leticia Hernandez, a mother of five, said her family has traveled to Michigan for three years to work in all aspects of blueberry production. The family lives in a migrant worker community from July through part of the winter and early spring.
Once the work ends for the season in Michigan, the family moves to Georgia and New Jersey.
Hernandez said it’s hectic, and moving can wear on her children who are in school.
“We do make sacrifices, but it’s worth it,” she said. “We’re working for our children’s futures.”
Hernandez, whose children range in ages 13-23, said they make learning their focus and encourage their children to continue their education so they don’t work in the fields.
As Hernandez, her husband and two of her sons work in a local blueberry field, three of her children attend school. One is a seventh-grader at Lakeshore Middle School, one is a senior at Grand Haven High School and the other attends Western Michigan University.
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.