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The True Cost of Your Food!

migrantchildren

The year  is 1941 and these are the children of Migrant Farm Workers in California.
Picture credit: Library of Congress, Robert Hemmig.

 

As you sit to eat each day, do you ever think about where the food on your table comes from?

Perhaps not, but maybe you should.

The United States has millions of Migrant Farm Workers whose sole means of survival, is to put that very food on your table.

And how do we thank them for this life-giving nourishment?

The truth is not very pleasant, nor often even humane.

The work that they do is back-breaking, with very low pay or sometimes,  even no pay.

They have no health insurance and few rights and even fewer who care what happens to them at all.

Yet, without these Migrant Farm Workers who suffer in silence, we would have nothing, or very little, on our dinner tables in America.

I know of no one who would do the work that they do,  no one!

Would you?

If they are lucky, they and their children will hopefully survive it all.

As most of you who follow my two Blogs know, I lived in Southern California  for over 30 years.

My education was in Anthropology, and my opportunity to learn about Migrant Workers came easily because of these two facts.

My last semester at CSUN was a rewarding one, the hard part was all done and the classes that remained were ones that gave me the chance to study what really meant the most to me, people.

Over the years, I had met and become friends with many Hispanics in California, some were legal residents, many were not, but they were all the same to me, kind, warm and family loving people,  that I enjoyed being with and knowing.

The first  “free study”  Class that I did was about the Migrant Farm Workers who lived and worked in Southern California.

I spent countless weekends for six months,  all over LA talking to and learning about, the way these people lived and worked.

They were so forthcoming in offering me the chance to understand the hard lives that they and their families lived.

In these interviews, the people who talked to me were always men,  their wives and children were still in Mexico and they sent them as much as they could each week.

This was the saddest part of the lesson learned, many times the men would get onto trucks and work for an entire day in a field somewhere, only to be dropped off and told that they would be paid the next day.

But, that never happened they said,  because the next day the nasty people who did this,  always chose another street and another group of unsuspecting victims.

Usually, these men lived as many as 8-10 to a room, sharing what they had,  just trying to survive and send money home.

They were victimized by “legal” Americans who cared nothing for them of their families, but only used them.

The workers of course,  could not complain, as so many of them were not here legally and those who cheated them, were quite well aware of this fact.

This was in the mid 1990’s.

What I did not know about at the time of these interviews,  was all that had been done to those who came before them.

Migrant Farm Workers coming to pick food in California began shortly after the two World Wars,  first in the early 1900’s and then later, in the 1950’s, with the Bracero Program.

California advertised everywhere to bring people there to pick the exploding orange and fruit harvests for the owners who were desperate for pickers.

Those who came, were promised many things and in the beginning they were treated fairly well.

Although unbelievably,  I just learned today, they were sprayed with DDT at the Borders.

But then later after the worker shortage slowed down around the mid 1960’s, things began to change and conditions for the pickers became most unbearable.

Just about this time,  Cesar Chavez began his lifetime of dedication to improving  Farm Worker’s Rights.

He would fight this good fight,  until his death and made such a tremendous difference in their lives.

But silently waiting in the dark shadows all during this time was a sinister evil that few suspected, until it was out of control.

Pesticide poisoning was now rampant among the farm workers, their families and the places where they lived.

There is a small town in the San Joaquin Valley, called  McFarland, where not so long ago, the rate of leukemia among the children there under six, was nearly 80% and many blamed this on the over use of pesticides throughout this entire farming region.

This town is right smack in the middle of the Big Valley, which we Californians jokingly called the “salad bowl of America” because just about everything in a salad came from there.

What no one talked about back then,  however, was the amount of pesticides and the harm they caused, used everywhere in this  Great Valley,  that  all of this wonderful food required to be delivered to America’s dinner tables.

The people who bring you your food and their families,  have paid a great price for this, many paid the ultimate price.

So, now that you know the true cost of your food, perhaps the next time you and your family sit down to dinner, you may say a silent thank you to the Migrant Farm Workers who brought it to you.

 

Places to learn more:

How To Better Protect Farmworkers From Pesticides

Protect Farmworkers From Pesticide Poisonings

California goes mobile to educate farm workers on pesticide safety

Pesticides and Childhood Cancer

Heavy Lift

Florida Farm Workers Allege Pesticide Exposure Is Giving Them Cancer

A Poisoned Culture: the case of the Indigenous Huicholes Farm Workers

Farm Workers Demand Protections From Pesticide Poisoning

Long-awaited EPA pesticide protections a ‘mixed bag’

Farmworkers plagued by pesticides

Farmworkers

 

 

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Si, se puede!

César Chávez

Photo by Claire Peterson and Susana Diaz
Exploring the United Farm Workers’ History
http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~13d/systems/agentsheets/
New-Vista/grape-boycott/History.html

 

Last night while watching one of our favorite films, Invictus on a new to us channel called Pilot, which appears to lean towards Biographies,  a commercial came on about a new petition for César Chávez.

I have just signed this Petition and cannot think of a finer person to be the first to be written about on this new Global Culture Blog.

To so many in California, Chávez was a passionate, dedicated civil rights leader quite similar to Gandhi who followed many of Gandhi’s methods of non violent civil disobedience, to achieve his monumental goals for the poor farm workers suffering in silence.

In the end, he did achieve his goals, but it was a very long,  hard struggle.

Here is a link to the Petition, if you believe that this man, should be considered just as important in this country’s history as Columbus and all the others who already have a National Holiday to Honor their existence, then please do sign it.

Here is the takepart Petition:    César Chávez

Californian’s are no longer the only ones aware of the full measure of this man’s life long struggles, they are now joined by millions who have now come to understand why Chavez  is so deserving of this Honor.

For those who are not familiar with this humble civil leader, here is a quite brief biography of César Chávez:

Until his death in 1993, César Chávez was frequently in the

news in California and around the world, as his name

became synonymous with Farm Workers Rights.

César’s early life was hard, as it was for many migrant working families.

As a child, school was difficult, there were many obstacles

and he found it a hostile, negative environment.

Yet, he overcame this and became an inspirational leader

to  migrant farm workers all over the country.

His initial lack of formal education, only through elementary level,

would reverse later in life as he became a passionate reader

 and derived great insight into the lives of leader he admired.

Chávez disliked  any form of violence and in similar pattern

as Gandhi thought that fasting and peaceful protests were

the best way to accomplish the results they were seeking.

His efforts were not always successful,

the big farm owners had tough lawyers whose lives

were devoted to defeating Chávez and his supporters.

The Hollywood community rallied behind César because

he spoke for those who had not a single hope of being heard.

To the rich farm owners, he was a thorn in their sides,

someone who had to be dealt with and kept down.

His life’s work became a beacon for the millions of

poor migrants who wanted just a chance at a decent life.

Chávez showed those who worked for little or nothing,

that there could be a better way of living and working.

César Chávez  gave them hope.

Si, se puede!

 

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