2017 Documentary Work

From the Ground Up 

Crossing thresholds, harvesting stories.

The SAF 2017 documentary project saw the intimate expressions of farmworkers in North and South Carolina through a series of art projects they created using visual and textual imagery that portrayed the foundation and support systems that motivate them during their long days of work. The project portrayed the unique challenges they face, the values they bring from home, and their dreams for a future in which they see themselves as accomplished laborers reunited with their families in their homeland of Mexico. 



During two participatory workshops, 17 SAF interns convened two visits to farmworker camps with 5-20 workers each, leading workers in exercises in drawing hand maps, writing letters and narratives, and taking photographs. Students learned about zines at their mid-retreat workshop and compiled the hand map drawings and photographs into zines to take back to their second meeting with workers. At this last meeting, they facilitated a discussion with workers about how they can strengthen and support each other in confronting challenges and meeting goals.

The projects were in partnership with local Migrant Education Programs at area schools. Students received an orientation training in the LTP documentary model, documentary ethics, and photography.


"I am happy / I am a hard worker / I am sentimental / I am clean / I am an inventor. My goal is to buy myself a ranch."

– Gildardo, Western NC, hand map project

"What I wish for the most is to live in peace with all of humanity."

– Andres, Western NC, hand map project

It’s very hard to be here because you have to make a lot of sacrifices, like leaving your family, but for them you make the effort and well, work is hard and the heat is intense. But, you think about your family, and nothing matters and you work even harder."

Samuel, SC letter project

Click on the images below to take a look at the zines students and farmworkers created together to share stories of their lives:

Western North Carolina

Estudiantes en Acción con Campesinos en el Oeste de Carolina del Norte

"Liberty / Provider / Hard worker / Informing / Sharing"

María, description in hand map project

South Carolina

Familia Historia Esperanza Fronteras / Family History Hope Borders

"We Mexicans work very hard in the United States, although it’s so very hot, even so we work 13 hours each day without resting a single day, planting and picking fruits and vegetables so that people here can eat. Well, the truth is that we suffer a lot by being here starting with our family, abandoning them in order to push ahead and then having to get used to a new type of food. Thank you for reading these words."

– Adalberto, letter project

"I’ll tell you a little bit about what we farmworkers experience here in the United States. Life here is very hard when we harvest fruits and vegetables… and the sun burns so much… and we get weak, and you get irritated from so much heat. And despite that we have to work all day putting up with the fatigue, dehydration and hunger. We also have to work when it’s raining and we get full of dirt. And wet… I’ll also tell you that it’s very sad to be far from our land which is Mexico… and our loved ones like my parents, my wife and my son. But we’re here working hard so that we can support our family… and well, it’s very hard to be a farmworker, and sad because you work from sun up to sundown in the fields."

– Angelito, letter project

Central North Carolina

Los Caminos de los Padres / The Paths of Fathers


"I am a grandfather of 4 / Tobacco worker / I am Mexican / Today was a great Father's Day at SAF."