Communicating With Farmworkers

As an outreach worker, you may be invited to help a research team with a research project.

Questions to Consider Before Approaching Farmworkers about Participating in a Research Project

 As an outreach worker, how will you first approach a farmworker camp?

  • Think about whether you want to first go alone to the farmworker camp to tell them about the opportunity to participate in research. Think about whether you will talk with a leader of the camp first or if you will talk to all workers together. Think about whether any members of the research team will be with you on the first visit.

How will you introduce the research team and project?

  • Think about how you will explain the role of the research team and the organizations they represent. Think about who will explain the specifics of the research project.

What do I need to know about farmworkers agreeing to be part of a research project (informed consent)? How will I be involved?

  • This is very important when working with farmworkers who may not feel like they have a lot of control over some parts of their lives.
  • Even though all farmworkers at a camp may be asked together if they want to participate, the decision must be individual.
  • Remember that farmworkers may not feel comfortable telling you 'no' out of gratitude for the services you have provided them, or out of fear that they may lose access to your services.
  • Before asking farmworks to agree to participate in a study, you may want to:
    • Allow for enough time to thoroughly discuss the research project and answer questions. This may mean setting aside an outreach visit to focus only on this research project.
    • Allow farmworkers time to discuss participation after you leave and allow them time to decide whether or not to participate.
  • Help farmworkers understand that you are offering this opportunity to participate but you are not requesting or expecting that they do so. The farmworker's participation in this research project is completely separate from participation in the health program. This means that farmworkers will still have the same level of access to health services whether or not they choose to participate.
  • Explain that individuals or camps can drop out of the research project at any time for any reason. Even if the research team reviews this with the participants, it can be helpful to hear more than once and from someone they already know and trust.

 How will you explain what farmworker health research is?

  • Research can be abstract and feel far-removed from farmworkers' daily lives and concerns.
  • Research can help farmworkers by explaining the reality of farmworkers' lives and exploring relationships. Some research improves what we know about farmworker health outcomes (for example, do farmworkers who are exposed to a certain pesticide have more skin rashes?). Some research can be used to help farmworker health outreach workers provide services that are more helpful to farmworkers (for example, research may show which type of health education is best understood by farmworkers).
  • Try to set realistic expectations. Clearly state what the research project is likely to mean for them in terms that are easy to understand. Explain that their personal circumstances will not be dramatically or immediately improved due to this research project.

How will you explain why farmworkers may want to participate in this particular research project?

  • What question will this research project try to address?
  • How will results be used or shared? How and when will the research team tell the farmworkers about the important results of this study? Who else will results be shared with?
  • How will farmworkers be compensated for their time (for example, money, gift cards, or other tokens of appreciation)? When will compensation be given?
  • What kinds of other assistance will be provided to farmworkers to help them participate (for example, transportation, child care, and/or interpretation)?

 How will you explain why farmworkers may not want to participate in this particular research project?

  • What are risks to participating?
    • How will the participants and the farm be described when the results are shared? Is there a risk the participants or the farm may be identified?
    • Will participation affect that farmworkers' relationship with their employer?
    • Are there emotional risks?
    • Will the research team be providing any protections to minimize the risks?
  • Do farmworkers have the time needed to be a part of this research project?
    • How often will the research team visit? How long will the visits last? Is there a certain day or time that the research team will come? Is there a certain part of the growing season or a certain week or month that the research team will come?

 What other information might farmworkers want to know before they decide to participate?

  • What are the names of the research team members? What organization(s) do they work with?
  • What activities will farmworkers who participate in this study be asked to do?
    • Will participants answer surveys?
    • Will they have discussions in small groups?
    • Will they give blood or urine samples?
  • Where will data be collected (for example, on the farm, in farmworker housing, at a clinic)?
  • What will their employer know about this research project?
  • Will farmworkers be able to provide feedback on the design or interpretation of the results of the research project?
    • There are different levels at which participants can be involved in a research project, some of which are more empowering than others to the participant.

 Wrapping up the initial conversation:

  • What other questions do the farmworkers have?
  • Ask the group to repeat back in their own words what they understand about the study.

If the farmworkers have agreed to participate, what other information do they need to prepare for the research project?

  • Who will be collecting the data (this may be different from the research team)?
  • Who can be the primary point person for the camp and how is it best to communicate with him/her?
  • If any participants have any problems or concerns during the study, who should they contact?


Tips for Success During the Research Project

  • During the course of normal outreach, check in with participating farmworkers to see how things are going and if they have any questions or concerns.
  • Remind farmworkers who their primary contact for the research project is, and how to communicate with him/her.


Tips for Success After the Research Project

  • Thank farmworkers for participating.
  • If appropriate, check in to see if any case management or education is needed as a result of the research project.
  • Let participants know when to expect results to be shared.
  • Work with the research team to ensure that results are shared with camps in culturally and linguistically appropriate ways and at the appropriate education level.
  • Evaluate the research process with the farmworkers and research team. Did things go according to plan? What were the strengths of the process? What were the weaknesses? What other support would have been helpful?