Thursday, May 20, 2010

The reality of (some) farm workers

Buying organically and sustainably grown food not only benefits the buyer and the environment, but the farm worker, too. This story in the Monterey Herald details how a well became contaminated with nitrates. It just happens to be a well that migrant farm workers use at a camp in Pescadero. The head-farmer-guy provides living quarters for the field workers, if you can call them "living". And the contaminated well just happens to be 30 feet away from the field that these workers maintain. Do you think this is an organic farm? The story didn't say, so I assume not.

I can't really say that I know about the "reality" of farm workers, because I have no idea. But it doesn't look like a good life, or else there would be plenty of Americans out there tending the fields. When company profit is the only focus, then money trumps quality and the employees suffer.

These people deserve better. It bothers me that they have to "live in the shadows" in such poor conditions. That's why I think it's important to support small, local, organic farms who treat the earth and their employees fairly. For example, Two Small Farms in Watsonville/Hollister. We belonged to their CSA in 2007, before I started growing so much of our produce at home. I can remember when the owners apologized for raising the subscription price. They needed the extra money to give their field hands a pay increase, which I'm sure most of us in the CSA supported wholeheartedly!

I still buy produce from Two Small Farms from time to time. They have a farm stand in Watsonville and sometimes you can order veggies and fruit in bulk. Like last night, I picked up 10 lbs of fava beans and 1 lb of agretti (an Italian salty salad green) from Julia in PG. They will probably have tomatoes and peppers later in the summer. You can sign up for an interesting newsletter on their website.


Stefaneener said...

THIS is what I tell people who tell me that organic produce isn't better for me. It may not be, but I can absolutely guarantee it's better for the workers who spray, work, and harvest conventionally grown crops! There may be big farmers who carefully protect their workers with proper training and equipment, but human nature being what it is, I'd rather not make that call for someone else.

Christy said...

Just be careful here. Not all organic farms treat their workers with the respect and dignity they deserve, not to mention decent wages or other benefits that workers in other industries often have. Especially when we are talking about big growers who are trying to cash in on the "organic" label. The best thing is to grow our own vegetables while at the same time support farm workers' rights (including the right to organize!).

Jackie said...

Amen, Stefaneener!

Christy, that's why I said "small, local, organic". Basically, I think we need to know what's going on "down at the farm".