Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Daniel Baker


Vermont is a largely rural and homogenous New England state not often thought of as a destination for Latino migrant farm laborers, but in recent years dairy farms have begun hiring Latino workers; there are now an estimated 1200 in the state, although the exact number is unknown (Baker, 2013). As the dairy industry is the largest contributor to sales from agriculture for the state, these farmworkers play an essential role in Vermont’s economy (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2014b). These migrant dairy farmworkers hail primarily from Mexico, with a small fraction from Central America, and lack sufficient documentation to work and live legally in the U.S. Myriad stressors are inherent to both dairy farm labor and living as an illegal immigrant. In a state like Vermont so near the Canadian border, where federal immigration officials have jurisdiction, there is an additional layer of risk. This thesis explores the social, political, geographic, and economic context of Vermont as it relates to the experiences of stress for Latino migrant dairy farmworkers in the state.

In addition to reviewing the literature to better understand of the context for stress and stressors affecting migrant farmworkers the U.S., this thesis uses information from a survey administered to Latino migrant dairy farmworkers in Vermont. This thesis utilizes the Migrant Farmworker Stress Inventory (MFWSI), a survey instrument designed to assess the types and severities of stressors inherent to migrant farmwork. This survey is supplemented by questions targeting Vermont-specific stressors for migrant farmworkers.

Demographic characteristics reveal Vermont’s Latino migrant farmworkers to be mostly Spanish-speaking males from Mexico or Guatemala in their late 20s, and although over half the population are married/in a partnership and have children, less than half those farmworkers live with their partners or kids. Among these farmworkers, 36% exhibit “caseness,” for stress, i.e. degree of stress correlated with poor mental or physical health outcomes defined as a score of ≥80 on the MFWSI. The mean stress score for this population is 74.55, above the average for studies in the literature using the MFWSI. Significant stressors from this study include those related to social isolation, language barriers, and migration and legal insecurity. Factors contributing significantly to overall stress or more extreme levels of specific stressors include: living closer to the Canadian border, getting surveyed in cold months, being Guatemalan, being in a marriage or partnership, having contact with health clinics, getting paid lower wages, working longer hours, not having family or partners on the farm, having a previous farm injury, having a Driver’s Privilege Card, and not having contact with various organizations that help migrant farmworkers in Vermont. Exploratory questions reveal that keeping busy and socializing are the main ways farmworkers reduce stress in their lives, but that having a work permit/legal status, or being able to be with family would most reduce their stress.

This thesis concludes with suggestions for increasing support for organizations that provide essential services to migrant farmworkers, like health services, ESL and education, and advocacy for improved labor conditions. Continued research should use the insights gleaned from this thesis to explore further strategies for coping with the stressors prevalent amongst Vermont’s Latino migrant dairy farmworkers.



Number of Pages

184 p.