This week, my focus will be on migrant farm workers. I’m certainly not an expert on this topic, but I think it’s a really important aspect of the food system that should be discussed.
There are many directions we could go, but first it’s important that we all have a baseline level of knowledge. Please look over each of the Farm Worker Issues on this website: http://nfwm.org/education-center/farm-worker-issues/. Although this information is referring to farm workers in general, note that almost 80% of farm workers are foreign-born and virtually all of those 80% are from Mexico.
Michigan is quite agriculturally diverse, and Southwest Michigan actually has a large concentration of migrant workers. Michigan Radio did a documentary called “Voices from the fields: a story of migrant workers in Michigan.” I’m only posting two short segments, but if you’re curious, here is the full documentary: http://michiganradio.org/post/voices-fields-migrant-workers-michigan
Please listen to these! They’re short!
1) A segment about housing conditions for migrant workers: http://michiganradio.org/post/what-home-looks-migrant-worker
2) A segment about some of the issues with undocumented migrant workers: http://michiganradio.org/post/what-happens-when-more-half-migrant-workers-are-undocumented This segment is particularly interesting because it explores the employers' viewpoints on undocumented workers while showing how policy changes can trickle down and affect migrant workers.
Also, this is the organization in Kalamazoo, Farmworker Legal Services of Michigan, that the story references: http://www.farmworkerlaw.org/advocacy2014
So, I’ll ask you to think/write about:
What, if anything, did you know about migrant workers rights before reading this blog post?
What, if anything, were you surprised to find out?
Of all the complex issues related to migrant workers (labor laws, low wages, health & safety, housing conditions, child labor, education, women’s issues, etc.), what stood out to you? Are any of these more easily addressed/fixed than others?
I don’t know much about immigration policy, and I suspect many of you might not either. Still, what might an ideal immigration policy look like? How can we give migrants more power so that they can speak out in the face of injustice?
Finally, I want to try to keep this solution-based. How can we, as consumers, help protect the people who are picking so much of our food?
We’ve talked about the importance of buying local, but is that enough? Buying locally may be better for the environment and even for your body, but we can’t forget the human component of how our food was produced.
Finally, on a more broad scale, how do we deal with all these intersecting issues? It can be exhausting to consider every aspect of the food we purchase (Is it local? Is is organic? How was it produced? Who produced it, and how were they treated?, etc.), but it’s crucial if we want to revolutionize our food system. I know I get frustrated and overwhelmed at times, so feel free to share any feelings you have about this.
Thanks everyone! Can’t wait to read all your blog posts!