Friday, October 22, 2010

Fresh from the farm ... workers

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to go with friends (who are also rock star Food Empowerment Project volunteers) to an event put on by ALBA.They are an amazing organization based in Salinas, CA. One of their programs includes training farm workers (current and past) to become farmers of their own.

I had heard about ALBA when I attended a talk at Stanford University and was really intrigued by their work. When we started developing the farm worker section of our website, we went to tour ALBA’s land and learn more.

During my first visit we were able to speak to one of the ALBA farmers, who also continues to work in the fields. The farm that he works for is a conventional farm that has a section dedicated to organic. It was when he moved from working in the conventional fields to the organic area that he started to get interested in ALBA.

It was interesting to hear about things from his perspective. For some workers, they are defensive when they are told that organic is better. They do not want to feel as if they have been doing anything that would be bad for others, including their families. They are hard workers.

But this worker started to become more interested in organics when he saw that he did not have to put on as much protective clothing as the workers on the conventional farms, and he had seen many on the conventional farms get sick from the agricultural chemicals they were using. When speaking about organics, he kept using the word "limpio," which means “clean” in English.

Clean.

Who doesn't deserve clean food and a clean way to make a living? It's such an interesting way to look at these issues. For some of the workers, the concern about organic is more about not wanting to feel like they are doing anything wrong.

Why in the hell should they be feeling guilty? In my opinion, they are victims, and in fact, we are all victims of the chemical industry that has convinced us that agricultural chemicals are necessary.

Our day on their farms was amazing. We were able buy fresh strawberries, corn, flowers, kale, etc., right in front of where they were being grown, with the farmers who work the land. Men, women – families – able to take pride in their work.

A special bonus for me was that the sunflowers I had helped plant there had grown huge, and in fact, the seeds were falling out. Something I had never seen before. And the seeds were so delicious and juicy – nothing like I had ever tasted.

I consider ALBA's work not unlike that of a gardener tending to a garden - ALBA provides the support for these farmer workers and in turn the farm workers produce food for us all!

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