Michigan Farmworker Project (MFP)

The Michigan Farmworker Project (MFP) is a community-engaged project that aims to provide a deeper understanding of the complex working and living conditions of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the state of Michigan and the relationship with health outcomes in this population. The MFP seeks to identify indicators of labor exploitation in farmworkers and relate this understanding to farmworker’s psychosocial, occupational and environmental risk factors as well as gaps in service provision and recommendations from farmworkers themselves to address their current working and living conditions.

Key Personnel

  • Alexis Handal, PhD, Principal Investigator
  • Lisbeth Iglesias-Rios, PhD, Co-investigator and Senior Study Coordinator
  • Marie O’Neill, PhD, Co-investigator
  • Paul Fleming, PhD, Co-investigator
  • Mislael Valentín Cortés, Doctoral Student, Research Assistant


Preliminary Analysis: MFP and COVID-19 Pandemic

The MFP found that farmworkers (migrant, seasonal, and H-2A)—considered "essential workers" - face challenging working and living conditions that are critical to address during the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to limit COVID-19 risks in this population require an evidence-based, multifactorial approach that involves workers, employees, and stake-holders. In a policy brief, the researchers recommend that enforcement actions be taken to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protection and mitigation guidelines instead of reliance on self-compliance.

Policy Briefs


These are the most recent news items for the Michigan Farmworker Project (MFP). View all Center news.

PUBLISHED: “The Michigan Farmworker Project: Development and Implementation of a Collaborative Community-Based Research Project Assessing Precarious Employment and Labor Exploitation” authors include Postdoctoral Research Fellow Lisbeth Iglesias Rios, MS, MPH and Center Core Faculty Alexis Handal, PhD, MPH
“Farmworkers are among the most underserved and marginalized populations of workers despite their essential role in the U.S. food supply chain. The Michigan Farmworker Project (MFP) evolved as a collaborative, community-based participatory project among state and regional service entities, legal service organizations, and the university. The overarching goal of the project was to study the relationship of precarious working conditions and labor exploitation with occupational and environmental health inequities and social justice for farmworkers in Michigan.
Read more at the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship
Posted: October 30 2022
IN THE NEWS: “Michigan Farmworker Project seeks to improve social and environmental health for marginalized population” Q & A with Center Core Faculty Alexis Handal, PhD, MPH and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Lisbeth Iglesias Rios, MS, MPH
“We focus on farmworkers because the work of this workforce is inherently precarious and often exploitative. It promotes unsafe and sometimes unfair or unlawful labor practices by employers, performed sometimes in conditions of inequality, or in violation of human dignity. Labor exploitation is a consequence of precarious employment and has negative consequences for workers, their families and their communities, and is a hindrance for a cohesive society. ”
Read more at the Michigan Public Health News Center
Posted: October 25 2022
IN THE NEWS: “In one Michigan county, almost half the COVID-19 cases are tied to farm outbreaks” with Center Core Faculty Alexis Handal, PhD, MPH and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Lisbeth Iglesias Rios, MS, MPH
“There’s some really important power dynamics at play here, and workers are not empowered to really have control of their working and living conditions.”
Read more at the Detroit Free Press
Posted: September 22 2020
IN THE NEWS: Q&A with Center Core Faculty Alexis Handal, PhD, MPH and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Lisbeth Iglesias Rios, MS, MPH : “Essential but Expendable? Protecting Farm Workers During COVID-19”
State and federal executive orders have deemed seasonal and migrant farmworkers “essential.” Yet, few protections have been granted to this population, which may be at higher risk of exposure to coronavirus, according to a policy brief by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Alexis Handal, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology, and Lisbeth Iglesias Rios, MS, MPH, a postdoctoral research fellow, discuss findings from their Michigan Farmworker Project, a 2019 community-engaged qualitative study with migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the state of Michigan.
full story (English / Inglés) at Michigan Public Health News Center and Michigan News
full story (Spanish / Español) at Michigan News
audio summary from Alexis Handal, PhD, MPH (English / Inglés):
audio summary from Lisbeth Iglesias Rios, MS, MPH (Spanish / Español):
view policy brief documents (pdf): The Michigan Farmworker Project (Policy Brief) and The Michigan Farmworker Project (Diagram)
Posted: June 17 2020