Recent Articles About Food and Farm Labor

Update: A month after this story ran, Ben and Jerry’s agreed to negotiate with Migrant Justice.

In 2009, José Obeth Santiz Cruz, a 20 year-old farmworker from Chiapas, Mexico, had a fatal accident on a small dairy farm in Vermont. Cruz was working on his knees near a gutter scraper–a conveyor belt that pushes manure into a pit–when his clothing got caught, and he was strangled. Read more

Can a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription service help more small farms survive in today’s consolidated food landscape? In 2014, economic researcher Mark Paul conducted in-person interviews with 16 Massachusetts farmers for Ecotrust and E3 Network’s Future Economy Initiative. The area where Paul did the research, called the Pioneer Valley, was home to one of the first two CSA businesses in the United States, founded in 1986. Now, it’s the epicenter for a new wave of CSA activity and can shed valuable light on the industry as a whole. Read more

It may seems like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend the best combination of protein, grains, and produce, to keep you healthy, fit, and free of disease, are set in stone. But they’re actually revised every five years by a panel of nutrition scientists—and because the guidelines impact billion-dollar government programs like school and military lunches as well as consumer guidelines like the food pyramid, or the more recent MyPlate, updating them is a highly politicized process. Read more

For many, a red, ripe strawberry elicits sweet memories of sunshine, summer, and childhood.

Glorietta, a strawberry picker in California, has quite a different relationship with the fruit. Hunched over picking for up to 10 hours a day for a mid-sized commercial grower, Glorietta—who asked that we not use her real name for fear of retaliation—says her body hurts all the time. She says the farm’s foreman constantly berates her and the other farmworkers. And she says the farm often fails to pay her adequately for the hours she works. Read more

I vowed never to touch another Thai-farmed shrimp after attending a panel discussion recently at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orleans.

Steve Trent, the executive director of Britain’s Environmental Justice Foundation, described a multi-billion-dollar industry with a financial model that would not be viable without slave labor. “It’s the most horrific situation I have seen in more than 25 years of monitoring human rights abuses around the world,” he said. Read more

One in 6 workers in the U.S. have food-related jobs; farmers, farmworkers, food processors, servers, and grocery store clerks are all part of the effort to get food to our plates. And yet, they are often invisible.

Five years ago, a handful of worker advocacy organizations came together to form the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance (FCWA) to help ensure that workers from the farm to the bodega have their voices heard. What started as a small coalition has grown to include 24 organizations that collectively represent nearly 300,000 workers along the food chain. Read more

Most people know Eva Longoria as an actress, but she has also become a fierce advocate for our nation’s farmworkers.

Longoria also has cred in both food and politics. She owns Beso, a restaurant which opened in in Hollywood in 2008, and she is an active democrat. As co-chair of President Obama’s fundraising committee, Longoria created the Latino Victory Project, which raises funds for Latino candidates.

Along with Eric Schlosser, Longoria served as the executive producer of Food Chains, a documentary that focuses on the brutal conditions farmworkers face, and shines a light on migrant tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida. Read more

A few years ago, Sanjay Rawal was driving past a farm in Immokalee, Florida and he saw a group of migrant farmworkers toiling away in the fields. Later that evening, he drove by the same field to find the same group still hard at work. Meanwhile, the farm managers were eating at a separate facility nearby. “The segregation of these two communities shocked me. Almost next door to one another were these two eating facilities–one for whites one for ‘coloreds’. The ‘coloreds’ in this case weren’t African Americans, but farmworkers. It could’ve been 1911, not 2011.” Read more

While the nation’s underpaid fast food workers have been making themselves and their demands very visible in recent years, a group of cooks and food servers in one of San Francisco’s most prominent Chinese restaurants have also been quietly charting a course to a better work environment.

Today, a group of employees at Yank Sing joins the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) and several Bay Area legal groups to announce a historic $4 million dollar settlement and workplace agreement with the restaurant’s owners. Yes, you read that right: $4 million. According to the State Labor Commissioner’s office, this is the largest monetary wage settlement they have helped secure from a restaurant of this size.

Read more

At first glance, writing an exposé on the pork industry might seem outside Ted Genoways’ wheelhouse. He’s the author of two books of poetry and has  penned a biography of Walt Whitman—not necessarily what one expects from someone writing about modern meat production in the U.S.

But Genoways, who has written on factory farming for Mother Jones and is the grandson of a former packinghouse worker from Omaha, Nebraska, brings his interests together by focusing on working class Midwestern life. His newest book, The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, is a chilling indictment of today’s pork industry told through the story of one company, Hormel Foods. Essentially, it’s The Jungle for the modern era.

We recently spoke with Genoways about his new book, Hormel, and the fact that much of our food has become less safe over time. Read more