Transnational Storytelling: Linking Farmworkers in India & Ethiopia with Farmworkers in North Carolina
Student Action With Farmworkers (one of our members) recently announced that Laura Valencia was awarded the 2012 SAF Petrow-Freeman Documentary Award. Her project is an experimental media tool that demonstrates the parallel lives that farmworkers live in different parts of the world. Her work focuses on connecting environmental and social justice in a unique multimedia way that takes you on a global food systems journey, and we encourage you to learn more about Laura and her work.
Laura Valencia was a SAF intern in 2009 with (FAN member) Toxic Free NC in Raleigh, during which time she produced seven short Spanish-language web videos about organic gardening tips and farmworker justice. After her internship Laura continued to be involved with farmworker justice, creating documentary work for Toxic Free NC and NC FIELD. She credits these experiences with shaping her own identity, helping her to see her role in the creative process as a storyteller, and teaching her to think critically about the ethics of storytelling and its role in social change. From her work in farmworker and food justice, Laura became a Presbyterian Hunger Program Food Justice Fellow, doing research in India and eventually joining a bus trip for social justice. As her interests expanded to include communities abroad, Laura credits SAF with her connections abroad and for sparking her interest in social and environmental justice, a passion which continues today.
Laura’s project is unique in that it incorporates audio, visual and other multimedia sources to connect individual stories to a larger systemic problem. She interweaves the themes of food justice, labor rights and sustainable agriculture into what it means to be a healthy community, both in the towns of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Mussoorie, India, as well as in the larger society. Taken as a whole journey, her works points to the need to connect small, seemingly isolated communities to work together to confront unjust systems of oppression. Finally, Laura’s project highlights the importance of storytelling and the role that participatory media can play in the process of social change. We encourage you to watch, listen and interact with Laura’s work, “Food Justice: A Global Food Systems Journey,” to see an example of a SAF alum branching out with the work that SAF engages in for transnational advocacy and cross-cultural storytelling.
By: Levi Vonk, SAF alum
The most disturbing aspect of Dodge’s 2013 “So God Made a Farmer” commercial was not the ad itself, but the reaction to it. Media outlets far and wide heralded Dodge for its rough-around-the-edges, down-to-earth approach. Even actor Rob Lowe was on board, tweeting: “God made a farmer. Yes. Not hip, no gimmicks. Not trying to be funny. Just great.” On the year’s glitziest night, Dodge had the courage to talk about the real America. Nevermind that Dodge’s goal—lest we forget—was to sell gas guzzling trucks. Nevermind that the small farmers they portrayed would probably never be able to afford a Dodge Ram that realistically costs $30,000, let alone the $16 million that Dodge dropped on its two minute commercial glorifying the austerity of the farmer America forgot. Nevermind that most purchasers of a Dodge Ram are not farmers, but people who place greater importance on image than functionality.
If I was a small farmer, I would be angry. There are pitifully few of them left as it is, mainly because corporate agriculture has forced Paul Harvey’s idyllic grower into the margins. The fact of the matter is, the narrative of the “small farmer” is by and large a false one, not because there aren’t men and women out there willing to put an honest day’s work into the fields, but because corporations have methodically killed them off for decades. And now another corporation is using the image of small farmers for their own profit? For shame.
We haven’t even gotten to farmworkers yet. And should we? If you’re reading this, you probably already have a list of grievances. That the new Dodge Ram costs almost three times as much as an annual farmworking salary. That the average farmworker works and lives in conditions so inhumane that the corporate bigwigs who sponsored the commercial could not even begin to imagine them. That by championing the small farmer, Dodge has forgotten the farmworker, rendering him nameless, faceless, and without significance or consequence. But this is nothing new. Even the Buy Local movement often leaves the farmworker behind, so it’s really no surprise that the corporate auto industry does the same. And perhaps this time, we can take consolation in the fact that the migrant worker was left out of the equation. Their labor is constantly exploited to sell cheaper produce, cheaper goods, and cheaper political ideology. At least they aren’t being used to sell cheap trucks too.
This post comes to us from Daryn Lane, a SAF alumna and theA meriCorps VISTA Local Stakeholder and Engagement Coordinator at RAFI-USA (Rural Advancement Foundation International- USA).
And here's Joe Schroeder's take on the ad from over here at RAFI:
"Were the farmers represented too white? Too male? Too well-resourced? Too big? Too commodity-centric? Not representative of who actually labors in the fields?"
In the blog post, Joe also highlights one of our newest videos about TCFR grantees. This one is about Felix Vargas, a farmworker turned farm-owner: "While many barriers keep migrant farmworkers from owning farms, he was able to obtain citizenship and slowly build the capital to invest in his own operation. Felix represents a growing population of Latino farmers in North Carolina and throughout the US. The influence of this demographic shift is already significant and will be increasingly important as we explore the immigration reforms necessary to meet our agricultural needs."
Originally published by the North Carolina Council of Churches: www.ncchurches.org/2013/02/god-made-a-farmer-but-what-about-farmworkers
As I watched the Super Bowl with my family on Sunday night, one ad stood out. It was the beautiful slideshow of farmers, accompanied by the eloquent words of the late Paul's Harvey's speech entitled "God Made a Farmer." The ad was a moving tribute, evoking powerful emotions while praising the often unrewarding daily labor of farming.
Here's an excerpt from Harvey's words:
"God said, 'I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.' So God made a farmer."
Again, it was a beautiful - almost haunting - two minutes. But why were all the farmers white? Why didn't the ad depict the reality of farmworkers, the millions of men and women whose hard labor makes possible the abundance on our plates?
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Responds
A recent story about "God Made a Farmer" by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers highlights this disconnect and why it's wrong:
The vision of rural America at the heart of the ad -- the visual definition of the farmer God made that is the subject of the two minute poem -- is, almost without exception, monochrome as can be. Out of 21 images of people representing farmers, 19 are white, one is African American, one is Latino...
Today, the vast majority of physical labor done on the vast majority of commercial fruit and vegetable farms in this country is done by farmworkers -- the vast, vast majority of whom are not white. There are more than 3 million farmworkers toiling on farms in rural communities from California to Florida and everywhere in between, yet, in an ad extolling the virtues of farm work, the people who work on farms are almost nowhere to be found.
It is not wrong to extol the labor, daily sacrifices, and invaluable contribution to American life of our nation's farmworkers. It is wrong to paint farmworkers white in order to do so.
The reality is that farmworkers pick the food we eat, and most of those workers are immigrant workers whose backbreaking labor -- the selfsame noble labor exalted in the ad's moving words -- is systematically underpaid and underappreciated. If the words read so powerfully by Paul Harvey are able to reach deep inside of us and move us to buy a truck, they should be powerful enough to move us to reward the work of our country's 3 million farmworkers and provide a living wage and dignified working conditions in return for their virtuous labor.
God Made a Farmer, and Farmworkers Too
God Made a Farmer, and Farmworkers Too. Photo by Peter Eversoll.
The lack of farmworkers in the ad is frankly a stunning omission, and it highlights the challenges that face farmworkers today. Farmworkers are routinely ignored in the policy debates that affect their lives. And it turns out that even tributes to hard work on farms, like the "God Made a Farmer" ad, fail to honor the contributions of farmworkers. It's up to us to help turn the tide. It's time we recognize that God made farmers and God made farmworkers too.
Got food? Thank a farmworker.
-Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate
A Green Guide to Valentine’s Day: Break the Chains of Farmworker Exploitation and Pesticides this Holiday!
Valentines Day marks one of the biggest shopping days of the year, especially when it comes to chocolate and flowers. But did you know that often your tokens of affection are supporting pesticides, child slavery and farmworker exploitation? Learn more about the products you are buying and what you can do to support fair labor practices this February 14th (or if you aren’t buying any gifts and choosing not to celebrate, here are a few more reasons to be contemptuous about the gross commercialization of romance):
Flowers: Fresh cut flowers and roses are a great way to show someone that you care about them; however, it is possible that those flowers were picked by an exploited or enslaved worker. Cut flowers that large floral retailers sell often come from countries like Colombia and Ecuador where workers rights aren’t always respected. Exploitation of workers in the flower industry is common, especially among female workers who are at a greater risk for sexual harassment and assault. Moreover, the Pesticide Action Network reports that flowers grown in Ecuador and Central America rely highly on dangerous pesticides that are harmful to workers and also use child labor. To learn more about flower practices in Ecuador check out this Frontline documentary:
To protect these women and children flower workers, look for bouquets bearing the Fair Trade logo or certification. Fair trade flowers can be find online at FTD Flowers or One World Flowers which even features “themed bouquets” such as “Honoring Japan” and “Helping Haiti.” Whole Foods also offers fair trade flowers in their floral department and local farmers markets offer seasonal organic bouquets grown nearby.
Chocolate: Like in the flower industry, child labor, environmental degradation and worker exploitation are also prevalent in cocoa harvesting. Much of the world’s chocolate supply comes from West Africa, where child labor is common. Over 40% of the world’s non-organic and non-fair trade comes from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), where the International Labor Organization and US Department of State have reported widespread instances of child labor. Furthermore, to meet growing industry demands, farmers have been forced to clear forest territory in areas of rich biodiversity, to make room for cocoa farms. Check out the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” to learn more about the “true story of how your chocolate is produced.”
For ethical chocolate online we recommend fair trade retailers www.coco-zen.com, www.naturalcandystore.com, and www.equalexchange.coop. This chocolate scorecard is also helpful when shopping at the supermarket. Locally, check out Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh, which uses all fair trade and organic cocoa beans (and offers tours of the factory to the public!).
Greeting Cards: According the EPA, the US consumes about 71 million tons of paper per year. This year consider saving trees by sending an e-card (we like this bilingual adult e-card by the Organic Consumer’s Association). Another option is to send an e-card with a donation to a non-profit. These “Gifts of Fairness” are a great way to appeal to the social conscience of your sweetheart.
Buying fair trade certified and organic products are the most important things you can do this Valentine’s Day to ensure the healthy and safety of workers and protect the environment. Many companies, small and large, do not offer fair trade products. Show your love this holiday by asking your local florist or filling out the comment section on chocolate manufacturers' websites to tell them that fair trade is important to you. For example, two years ago the FTD, one of the largest flower retailers in the world, began offering fair trade certified flowers as a result of a Change.org petition that garnered 9.450 signatures!
Finally, if you have grand dinner plans this Valentine’s Day, consider eating locally. Within the Triangle we are fortunate to have many restaurants that are farm-to-fork or that are dedicated to using locally sourced ingredients. Two of these are partner restaurants, Piedmont in Durham and Zely & Ritz in Raleigh, prepare fresh, organic, locally grown dishes, with over half of their ingredients coming from local Coon Rock Farm. Both are offering Valentine menus that are guaranteed to be delicious and socially conscious. For those couples that feel like staying in this Valentine's, hit up your local farmers market and have your own picnic at home! Or better yet, you and your beloved (and maybe a group of friends) can pick your own produce! Use this guide to find out what farms in your area allow you to pick your own produce. While it might not be quite warm enough yet, strawberry picking is a great bonding activity, and you can use what you pick for brunch or dessert!
This Valentine’s Day, the Farmworker Advocacy Network and farmworker advocates around the world invite you to show your loved ones that you truly care by putting your money where your values lie. Help break the chains of industrial agriculture and corporate globalization by choosing fair trade and organic flowers and chocolate for your Valentine’s Day gifts and by eating and shopping locally.
With the announcement yesterday of a bipartisan group of Senators and today’s speech by President Obama, momentum is building to pass immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship.
Our nation depends on the hard labor of farmworkers to cultivate and harvest our crops. Meanwhile, the majority of these workers live in poverty, unable to afford the very fruits and vegetables they harvest. Immigration reform is desperately needed to empower farmworkers to improve their wages and working conditions, as the majority lack immigration status.
Farmworker Justice welcomes the President’s commitment to passing immigration reform. We will encourage the President and Congress to promote immigration policies that enable current and future farmworkers to attain a roadmap to citizenship. To ensure fair treatment of farmworkers and our nation’s food security, we will continue to advocate for equal labor protections for farmworkers in any immigration reform.
Historic Thousands On Jones Street coming up Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013
Begin Assembly at 9:30 at Shaw University on South St. in Raleigh, NC
March to the Legislative building begins at 10:30am
Visit the HKonJ website for more information and details on the HKonJ 14-point agenda.
Six years ago, the North Carolina NAACP began building a multi-racial, multi-issue alliance of progressive organizations in North Carolina to form the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition (HKonJ-PAC). The movement — made up of over 140 partnering organizations — will continue its anti-racist, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda with its annual march on February 9. Included in these partnering organizations are several farmworker advocate organizations and other groups committed to working with the Latino community and immigration reform.
The 7th Annual HKonJ march will take place on Saturday, February 9, 2013. Armed with the historic shout “We the People Shall Not Be Moved: Forward Together Not One Step Back!”, HKonJ aims to unite individuals from all walks of life. The HKonJ assembly will consist of African-Americans, Latinos, Whites, Native Americans, Asians, the young, the not-so-young, and all others who wish to unite and collaborate with a beautifully diverse coalition of caring individuals. All are welcome to participate.
Citizens will march in support of voting rights, equitable education, collective bargaining, affordable housing, health care, environmental justice, and the protection of the rights of immigrants. The movement is centered around a 14-point People’s Agenda, including “Protecting the Rights of Immigrants from Latin America and other Nations” and “Livable Wages and Support for Low Income People.” The Farmworker Advocacy Network supports these positions as farmworkers deserve better housing & workplace standards, and all people who immigrate to our state deserve health care, education, workers rights and protection from discrimination. We invite you to come out and walk with us with the mission to reduce poverty and turn back the tide of economic injustices!