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Today is International Workers' Day

Yazmin Garcia Rico of Student Action with Farmworkers in Durham, NC, read the below statement aloud at last Friday's solemn yet powerful press event in front of the state's Department of Labor building. Join with FAN in recognizing International Workers' Day by remembering agricultural workers among us and perhaps even taking an action step for the campaign for a Harvest of Dignity. 

"As the Bible mentions, "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 23:22.

Each year thousands of immigrants leave their home countries seeking a better life for their families.  They harvest the fruits and vegetables we eat everyday while they risk their lives by doing some of the most dangerous work in our society. Farmworkers make an average income of just $11,000 a year, making them the 2nd lowest paid workforce in the nation. It is time to lift them up and honor their everyday contributions. We believe that every worker, including field and poultry workers, deserves to have safe working and living conditions. We demand a fair and sustainable agricultural system!  

We need to stop and think about the real cost of food. Each year, 5 out of 10 farmworkers in NC cannot afford to feed their families. Each year over 150,000 farmworkers labor in the fields of NC and face inadequate health and safety standards, poor housing conditions, exposure to pesticides and high temperatures, long working hours, heat stroke, nicotine exposure, and exposure to dangerous machinery. Children as young as 12 years old are allowed to work in the fields and most farmworkers are exempt from the right to organize a union, work overtime, take sick leave, or receive workers compensation.

We cannot continue jeopardizing the lives of the people who put food on our table.

We envision a world where students and community members actively work together with farmworkers for justice in the agricultural system.

We envision communities where there is greater interaction, communication, and understanding among people of different backgrounds.

We envision a world in which farmworkers are empowered to take leadership in the farmworker justice movement and their local communities.

We envision a world where consumers will be more aware of where their food comes from, who grows it, harvests it, and packages it, and the conditions of its production.

One day, all farmworkers will have dignity in their work and livelihood."

--Yazmin Garcia Rico, April 26, 2013



Land, Food, and Farm Work: North Carolina’s History and Now

By: Erin Krauss

There are reminders all around us that North Carolina is a state born and bred on agriculture. Many folks who live in the Triangle live in geographic regions that shelter agriculture from regular view. But despite the urban routines, hustle and bustle of traffic and at least the perception that we are urban…on the whole, we are not. Even in urban settings hot with pavement, back yard farms are popping up more and more in between city blocks. We are indeed a state that thrives on the land. North Carolina’s history and its future depend wholeheartedly on the agriculture sector. Even popular culture is leaning more in the direction of recognizing the power, the trend, and the sources of food. The last few years have seen an upsurge in the “foodie” scene, farmers markets, and programming that supports small-scale farm efforts and education for people interested in farming. One example of our community’s embrace of farming as a valid lifestyle and business venture lies in the upcoming Piedmont Farm Tour. This farm tour event provides an opportunity for locals to connect with small & medium sized farms in action and to support local and organic agriculture.

Then, there are reminders from the large-scale industrial community about the crucial and precarious nature of agriculture. Still dominant over NC’s food production, this sector (produce, poultry, hog farms, tree production, tobacco, etc.) also sustains the state’s economy and provides massive exports nationwide. Recent news from this sector has stressed the importance of the ability to hire willing workers in order to sustain this essential economic backbone. Amidst the prospect of potential immigration reform in the near future, as well as new E-Verify legislation in NC, agribusiness leaders have been speaking out locally and nationally. Their message reminds us that we are all dependent on human labor to supply our food, and securing employees to do this labor can be difficult. In light of this, farm owners are asking to be granted more legal ways (agriculture visas) to hire workers. While having more legal means is a valid ask, we in the farmworker justice movement know there are many other factors involved in the challenging nature of finding workers – including the demanding nature of the work and the blatant mistreatment the workers endure.

North Carolina’s connection to land and food production is all around us. From trendy food trucks, to educational farm programs, to community events that use visiting farms as a source of entertainment, to large-scale mono-crops– agriculture is vital to NC. But more often than not, our attention is focused on three things: 1. Enjoying tasty products of agriculture (local, organic &large-scale industrial.) 2. Learning the art of agriculture (reviving the business and the integrity behind it.) 3. Upholding concern and respect for farm owners (small, medium and large.) But let’s not forget that among all the subgroups affected by agriculture in NC, there lives a vast population of farmworkers who often are invisible. As we venture out to the farm-tours this weekend, and admire the work of small and medium farmers, let us also remember the many farms in NC where adults and children are working in the fields, often without the same rights as those in other sectors. As we enjoy the ever growing “foodie” sector in the Triangle, let us remember that vendors exist because of the 178,000 farm and poultry workers who make food products possible in NC. And as we hear more about NC’s large scale farmers advocating for legal means by which to hire willing labor for back-braking work in the fields, we must not allow this sector nor the government to the forget the rights of the workers amidst this debate. While farm owners desire to expand access to guest-worker visas, workers that are involved in the guest worker program now (and those who work on farms with no documentation) face extreme challenges and unjust treatment. As we reap the benefits of living in this agriculture state, let’s also work for change and justice in agriculture. Justice...A word that historically has hardly been a tenant of NC’s guiding principals for farming, but should be our vision for NC's farming future. 


Act Now to End Exploitative Child Labor

End Child Labor in NC - Long Version from Chris Liu-Beers on Vimeo

Children have always worked on their family's farm, and they should always be allowed to. But agriculture is very dangerous for children. Right now, children can work just like hired adults on farms starting at age 10 - younger than in any other industry. Our children are in harm's way. It's time to stop exploitative child labor.

While many kids look forward to summer pool parties and camp adventures, a hidden group of children will be sweating in our fields - picking the blueberries and tomatoes that end up on our plates.

NC Senators McKissock and Kinnaird have introduced powerful new legislation to stop this practice, but they are fighting an uphill battle and need your help. 

Take Action

Here are three simple things that you can do today to help end exploitative child labor:

  1. Watch the 60-second PSA, then forward it to your friends
  2. Call NC Senator Tom Apodaca, Chairman of the Rules Committee, to ask for a hearing of Senate Bill 707. Learn more about the bill here. Here's his contact info: 
    (919) 733-5745 |
  3. Call NC Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry to ask her to support Senate Bill 707. Here's her contact info:
    (919) 733-7166 |

Mark your calendars: Cornhole Tournament and Fundraiser!

Please join us! Register to play in our cornhole tournament by emailing or just stop by, have a burger and know that you are supporting farmworkers and local foods. Sunday, April 21st, we hope to see you there at Bull City Burgery & Brewery!


Food Insecurity in Farmworker Families

Farmworkers deserve "A Place at the Table" too.

A new documentary, A Place At The Table, has recently been gaining press and popularity for exposing the issues of hunger and food insecurity in America. Americans generally consider problems of obesity and overeating to be a primary concern, not hunger. However, A Place at the Table reveals some surprising truths, such as the fact that every day in the U.S. 50 million people -- including one in four children -- are food insecure, meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from. I saw the movie last week and it is emotional and eye opening. As you watch people living in poverty, especially the children but also the parents who struggle to put food on the table even though they have jobs, one cannot help but be compelled to learn more about this problem and ways that you can help. 

Like many similar films, such as Food Inc. (also by the same producers), A Place at the Table tackles a complex, multi-faceted issue. Likewise, it also raises questions that should be asked and need to be answered. One of these issues in the documentaries is the idea of federal farm subsidies for wheat and corn, which make up the bulk of our nation’s high-calorie processed foods that are also lacking in nutrition. The question that the film is asking (and it is a good one) is why does the U.S. government give more money to agribusinesses that grow processed foods than to small farmers who grow fruits and vegetables?

This question is important; however, in watching the film I realized that there was an even bigger question and issue that is ignored: farmworkers. Where are the people harvesting this food whose labor also serves to subsidize the cost of food? Do they not deserve a place at the table also? In what seems to me to be total irony, the people who pick our food are themselves not getting enough food to eat. North Carolina data from four studies between 2002 and 2004 found that in households with a farmworker, 49 to 71 percent are food insecure (compared to a national average of 15 percent in 2009). Farmworkers are people leaving their countries to escape hunger and diminishing opportunities, only to find themselves working in an agricultural sector that provides them less control over the production and consumption of their food.

Farmworkers often live in “food deserts,” which are described in the documentary as rural areas in which there is not enough quantity of food, not enough food of good quality and nutrition, or where food prices are higher than in other regions. Lack of transportation and few grocery stores in rural areas make it hard for farmworkers to have access to fresh, healthy foods. Farmworkers often do not have cars or driver’s licenses and are reliant on the grower for transportation and meals. Moreover, according to the National Worker Survey, the median income among farmworkers is between $7,500 and $10,000 annually. This low income, especially when coupled with the fact that many farmworkers send money back home, means that over 60% of farmworker families live in poverty. Because there are no food subsidies for fruits and vegetables, farmworkers are unable to afford more expensive healthy foods and must rely on cheaper, less nutritious junk foods. The people who harvest fruits and vegetables, therefore, are unable to afford the food that they worked to pick in an effort to earn enough money to feed their families.

A Place at the Table effectively acknowledges that hunger in America is solvable, and the solutions are awareness and legislation. Food insecurity is the product of our global economic system and the dynamics of domestic food production. A Place at the Table does a great job of raising awareness and starting the conversation about ending hunger in America; the source of legislation changes is in our agricultural sector. Federal policies need to be adopted to address our most marginalized populations, including farmworkers and their families. America needs government funding for rural development, transportation infrastructure, improved competitiveness for small farmers, and school-lunch and food stamp programs. Rural counties make up the majority of counties with persistent poverty, as well as the majority of farming communities. Rural poverty, inequality of access to food in farming areas, and the plight of farmworkers need to be part of the discussion that is being generated around hunger and food security.


Thank a Farmworker infographic

While spending time on Pinterest we came across an infographic called "10 Reasons to Thank a Farmer." This made us get to thinking (and creating) and as part of National Farmworker Awareness Week we think that it's also important to thank farmworkers so we made our own infographic. We hope you like it and will share, tweet and pin it with friends! Got Food? Thank a Farmworker.


It's National Farmworker Awareness Week!

National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW) is a week of action for students and community members to raise awareness about farmworker issues on our campuses and in our communities. In 2013 we celebrate the 14th Annual National Farmworker Awareness Week to raise awareness about farmworker conditions and to honor their important contributions to us every day!

Each day of Farmworker Awareness Week has a theme based on a mural created by Student Action with Farmworkers’ Levante Leadership youth group in collaboration with the Beehive Design Collective. This mural depicts the story of farmworkers, the story of human labor working the land, and the story of struggles for justice across generations. Since the mural represents many different struggles farmworkers face, it is the basis for 8 different themes, one for each day of the week of awareness. The themes can be found here and "like" Farmworker Awareness Week on Facebook to get facts, videos and photos each day! There are LOTS of events going on around the country so check out this calendar to find out events in your area. We will also be updating our Facebook page with local events so follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally, we are sponsoring an Instagram Challenge to encourage people to use the modern day technology of Instagram as form of artistic expression to help depict the ways that farmworkers influence our lives and the different faces of injustice that are still happening today. Each day of the week upload a photo related to that day's theme to enter with the hashtag #nfaw2013.  The best pictures will be voted on by our Facebook followers! People who enter each day will recieve a small prize and the best photo will win a grand prize NFAW prize pack.  It's not too late to enter! Follow us @harvestdignity on Instagram and don't forget to "like" your favorite photos on Facebook!


Moe's Fundraiser on Friday! 

Buy burritos & support farmworkers! Bring this flier to the Moe's in Cameron Village on March 22nd and 20% of your purchase will go to support FAN!


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