Of Forests and Fields

Mexican Labor in the Pacific Northwest

Ethnic Mexican migration to Oregon has shaped and supported the state's largest economic industries. Tracing the history of Oregon's labor and immigrant rights movements in agriculture and timber, the author recounts the experiences of generations of residents in the Willamette Valley and Southern and Eastern Oregon. Readers learn how local community building shapes opportunity.

186 pages. ©2016.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted January 28, 2023


Really fascinating examination of a topic that doesn't have a lot of information available about it. It was a bit academic in the language, but the subject matter kept me interested.


Review posted January 25, 2023


This book teaches about a side of Oregon that has been invisible to me. I had no idea there were so much drama involved in the agriculture industry. One example is a raid on a greenhouse where 153 workers were arrested in a few hours (and 97 re-arrested the following month). The greenhouse tried to hire US citizens to replace them and almost every one of them quit because the job was too hard. The company lost $12 million because of it.


Review posted January 21, 2023


Really interesting.


Review posted January 8, 2023


This was an informative read, well researched and interesting. I especially liked learning about how a variety of people worked together to promote social justice.

Karen Burkhart

Review posted December 21, 2022


Of Forests and Fields is a very good book to learn about the struggles of Mexican labor in Oregon and the hardship they face. Even though much progress has been made, there is still injustice that they face today.


Review posted December 16, 2022


Extremely informative and interesting summary of the story of Mexican farmworkers and forest workers in the PNW and the many different tactics used to fight for fairer treatment, better wages, and improved working conditions. I've lived in Oregon for many years, but never knew this history.


Review posted November 27, 2022


History everyone should know.


Review posted November 3, 2022


Really amazing account of Mexican labor in the Northwest. I really enjoyed learning about the power of Mexican labor and how it continues to shape our landscape. I would definably recommend this book!


Review posted September 18, 2022


Whether you are a decendant of a Mexican laborer or you have an interest in the history of the PNW forests, fields and agriculture, this book is an informative read.


Review posted September 2, 2022


This book was very eye-opening and surprising to me. Growing up, I heard about the Bracero program, but I thought it only took place in the Southwest so I found it very informative learning that it took place all the way up here in Oregon and places where Mexicans settled their roots and have been present in Oregon for over 60 years here.


Review posted July 25, 2022


This book was great, I could relate with PCUN.


Review posted July 12, 2022


While very informative of Oregon's history, it was a little dry and hard to read. The use of acronyms was heavy.


Review posted June 13, 2022


This was a very informative book about the history and migration of Latinx laborers to the Pacific Northwest. As a Latinx person living in the PNW who uprooted from the SF Bay Area, it feels important for me to be aware of how and why we got here. So I thank the author for the insight.


Review posted May 9, 2022


This book is great for research-minded folks. It is very educational, research heavy, and academic. I would love to see more materials about this topic.


Review posted April 28, 2022


A great piece of literature which touches on the importance of immigrant rights and labor organizing, and ultimately sheds light on the historical struggles of migrant laborers in the NW.


Review posted March 13, 2022


This book has great information. However, it would be a more interesting read if there were more images/graphics/pictures included.


Review posted January 25, 2022


My interest in this book was personal- my grandmother worked in agriculture and then canneries after fleeing violence against indigenous people in Mexico. This book mirrors so many of our family’s experiences over the decades, some from my mom’s stories and some I lived as a child. Excellent book that I highly recommend. Informative, and for me a little nostalgia mixed in.


Review posted January 12, 2022


Very interesting read.


Review posted January 3, 2022


I really enjoyed Of Forests and Fields. The book gave me insight and knowledge about my own region and the communities that built them. The writing was informative and interesting and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history of the PNW that we don't necessarily get in schools.


Review posted December 27, 2021


I started learning Spanish as a 7th grader in Illinois and then moved to California in high school. During one summer I volunteered in a Migrant Head Start classroom and that was my first experience with the mostly Spanish-speaking migrant communities in East Contra Costa County. Of Forests and Fields provides more background and a more complete understanding of what was happening in migrant communities the many years that I was in college in Portland, working with family literacy programs and then community colleges. I already had a lot of respect for leaders, the work and the communities , but this adds the details, connections and the names of those who have contributed so much to the Pacific Northwest over so many years. Thank you for including it on the book list.


Review posted December 26, 2021


As a child and then a young adult in the Salem area, I had little idea of the struggles faced by those who worked in the fields. This book really brought home that there was an entirely different culture living alongside my own that I was just barely even aware of. It was well-written and obviously very well-researched, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the largely unseen side of the agriculture industry in the Willamette Valley.


Review posted December 8, 2021


This was an interesting side of Oregon history that I knew very little about despite having attended public schools and living in Oregon all my life. I had not heard of the Bracero Program before. It makes me wonder how much more of Oregon history I need to learn about.


Review posted November 10, 2021


This book was very informative. Having grown up in the Woodburn/Mt Angel area of Oregon and working in the fields alongside migrant workers I had no idea of the deeper story/struggles of this community. Now I have new insight. I passed this book to my siblings and I recommend it highly!


Review posted October 19, 2021


Friend enjoyed it


Review posted September 20, 2021


Amazing history and stunning image of the hard work and drive spread through the Pacific Northwest through guest workers and immigrants.


Review posted September 18, 2021


I let one of my students read this and they finished it in a day. It was a great insightful read for me and my students


Review posted July 31, 2021


This is a brief, yet fantastic overview of the history of immigrant labor in Oregon and how it has sustained itself and become a positive force for labor organizing. The development of a self-sustaining immigrant population within Oregon (a state that is known for significant racial divisions) is a testament to the resiliency and strength of the people discussed within.


Review posted June 21, 2021


A powerful read that peels back the layers of labor history in Oregon. It is a well-researched, compelling read that sheds light on the connection between undocumented labor and agriculture. Highly recommend!

Aaron Poplack

Review posted April 21, 2021


An in-depth exploration of migration and policy changes that built the Northwest's Mexican community, and the labor organizing that was built out of that community. Looks a little academic at first, but actually centers storytelling and is a very engaging read.


Review posted April 14, 2021


Engaging and well-written history of Oregon farmworkers and the complex and often awful experiences they've endured. I thought I knew a lot before I read the book; I realized I had barely scratched the surface! Lots of oral histories and anecdotal references to local places & culture that make the book an interesting history text for any Oregonian who will recognize the references.


Review posted April 14, 2021


Multigenerational residents of Oregon, as well as new residents can expand or refresh their knowledge of their home state? Very interesting book.


Review posted February 20, 2021


An excellent overview of the history of essential workers who have built and sustained Pacific Northwest industries. A must-read!


Review posted January 28, 2021


I really enjoyed this book. I recomend to many. This is a great resource that provides historical context that brings us back to the agricultural labor, specifically the NorthWest.


Review posted December 13, 2020


Great book, it shared several perspectives and was interesting to learn more about the back story that is often not shared.

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Review posted December 4, 2020


Well written history of the farm and forest workers of Oregon beginning with the Bracero program. Another revelation of how racist Oregonians truly were/are. Many of the people mentioned in the Willamette Valley are people who are revered today (Jim Weaver) as icons of progressivism. A good starting point or reference for high school and college students studying 20th Century history. The fight goes on however and tactics by the INS and those in power have become much more brutal and restrictive. My only complaint is that the book was not well edited for spelling errors.


Review posted November 4, 2020


Love this book and all of the historical information inside!


Review posted October 17, 2020


Read this as soon as I got it! Good read of our area!


Review posted September 8, 2020


Usually, you hear about immigrant work in CA, it is interesting to see it closer to home. Since my dad worked in agriculture before he got his citizenship and GED this book hits close to home.