Workers picking and loading lettuce onto a conveyor belt.
Workers picking and loading lettuce onto a conveyor belt.

University of Florida Agricultural Economist Fritz Roka is putting into action the adage “When you know better, you do better.”

Roka and his team from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are leading training programs all over the state, beginning Oct. 7, to help farm labor contractors, crew leaders, drivers and office staff become better at managing crews of farm workers and keeping them safe.

“Our training focuses on making sure farm labor supervisors know all the rules and regulations so that workers are treated fairly, safely and equitably,” Said Roka. “In addition, we realized that teaching supervisors how to better communicate with their workers, to motivate as well as discipline them could enhance productivity.”

So, Roka and several UF/IFAS Extension agents came up with a series of courses that deal with everything from human resources compliance to agricultural equipment safety to first aid. There is a minimum class size of 10 people and the cost is $50 per person per class, with classes conducted in English or Spanish. The classes are held at UF/IFAS Research and Education Centers or Extension offices in Belle Glade, Immokalee, Lake Alfred and Sebring.

Roka said growers who don’t comply with wage and hour rules, anti-discrimination and harassment laws, pesticide safety, vehicle and driver safety regulations, along with housing requirements, face serious fines from the government.

“We advocate that compliance improves conditions for farm workers, as well as improving the overall economic health of the farming operation” he said.

Farm managers say taking the classes and subsequently obtaining a Certificate of Farm Labor Management from UF is simply the right thing to do.

“By obtaining this certificate, it is a testament by the crew leader that they are committed and focused on doing right by the farm workers they represent,” said John Martinez, director of human resources with Lipman Produce in Immokalee. “Additionally, any employer that supports and hires certified crew leaders demonstrates an equally significant commitment to social responsibility, and is also doing right in their practices for ensuring compliance and upholding the highest standards in utilizing farm workers in their labor force.”

Upcoming courses and locations:

Lake Alfred UF/IFAS Citrus Research & Education Center 700 Experiment Station Rd. Lake Alfred, FL 33850 Ph: 863-956-1151

Wed, 10/7 – HR Compliance – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Management Communications – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Wed, 10/14 – Rules for Bus and Van Drivers – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Safe Driving – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Wed, 10/21 – First Aid – 8 a.m.-12 p.m., CPR – 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

Wed, 10/28 – Wage and Hours – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Contractor Basics – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Tues, 11/24 – Agriculture Equipment Safety – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Pesticide Safety – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Sebring UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County Office 4509 George Blvd. Sebring, FL 33875 Ph: 863-402-6540

Thurs, 10/8 – HR Compliance 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Management Communications – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Thurs, 10/15 – Wage and Hours – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Contractor Basics – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Thurs, 10/22 – Rules for Bus and Van Drivers – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Safe Driving – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Thurs, 10/29 – First Aid – 8 a.m.-12 p.m., CPR – 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

Thurs, 11/12 – Agriculture Equipment Safety – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Pesticide Safety – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Belle Glade UF/IFAS Everglades Research & Education Center 3200 E. Palm Beach Rd. Belle Glade, FL 33430 Ph: 561-993-1500

Tues, 10/13 – First Aid – 8 a.m.-12 p.m., CPR – 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

Tues, 10/20 – HR Compliance – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Management Communications – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Tues, 10/27 – Wage and Hours – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Contractor Basics – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Tues, 11/3 – Rules for Bus and Van Drivers – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Safe Driving – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Thurs, 11/5 – Agriculture Equipment Safety – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Pesticide Safety – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Immokalee UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research & Education Center 2685 SR 29 N. Immokalee, FL 34142 Ph: 239-658-3400

Tues, 11/3 – First Aid – 8 a.m.-12 p.m., CPR – 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

Tues, 11/10 – Rules for Bus and Van Drivers – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Safe Driving – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Tues, 11/17 – HR Compliance – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Management Communications – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Thurs, 11/19 – Agriculture Equipment Safety – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Pesticide Safety – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.

Tues, 11/24 – Wage and Hours – 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Contractor Basics – 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.