This summer, the Chenango County Historical Society (CCHS) is facilitating a research project titled “Revealing the Hidden Stories of Migrant Labor Camps Along the Chenango River Valley.” This initiative features an aspect of lesser-known histories within regional agriculture and farming. To accomplish this, CCHS is serving as a host site for Summer Research Fellow Sophia Lopez through Colgate University’s Upstate Institute. Lopez is a rising junior at Colgate University who is studying history, along with Middle Eastern and Islamic studies.
“Revealing the Hidden Stories of Migrant Labor Camps Along the Chenango River Valley” is specifically designed to understand more about the history of migrant farmers who helped sustain agricultural efforts in Chenango County. Migrant work occurs nationally, and has been an aspect of farming in Central New York for decades. Within Chenango County, migrant labor was a very common way of maintaining the summer crops through the fall harvest. African American and Spanish-speaking migrants traveled to the region from southern states – specifically Florida – beginning in June. The migrants would stay for the season, picking beans and peas until early September, then travel back down south for the remainder of the year.
The presence of migrant workers in Chenango County is something that many people do not realize was pivotal in the region’s recent history. This research seeks to bring awareness to the role that migrant farmers played in agriculture and food production. Lopez is researching information on who the migrants were, what their lives were like in Chenango County, and why they traveled here for work so that CCHS can better share these stories.
Another aspect of this project is the expansion of Chenango Stories, an online oral history platform initiated by CCHS last year. Chenango County residents who recall the migrant labor camps are encouraged to share their memories with Lopez so that CCHS can continue to provide access to lived-history from local community members. Anyone interested in contributing to “Revealing the Hidden Stories of Migrant Labor Camps Along the Chenango River Valley” is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org. The outcomes of this research initiative will be available for the community to access and learn about in the coming weeks as Lopez continues her 10-week program.
First established in 1939, CCHS is the primary organization dedicated to actively and comprehensively preserving the history of Chenango County. The area’s premier heritage museum, the organization celebrates local culture – unique traditions, noteworthy residents, and unusual stories of the region. CCHS programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.