Behind the series: Product of Mexico

Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti explain what it took to get access to places that have long escaped outside scrutiny.

To report the "Product of Mexico" series, Marosi and Bartletti traveled across nine Mexican states, observing conditions and interviewing workers at some of the mega-farms that have powered the country's agricultural export boom.

"The growing conditions are the best in the world for the food that’s exported to us," said Bartletti. "But the living conditions [of] the people who are picking it, growing it, planting it, watering it? Are like, the worst I’ve ever seen."

Read the series:

Part 1: Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers. But for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.

Part 2: A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico's biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.

Part 3: The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.

Part 4: About 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.