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Student Action with Farmworkers by Megan Cutter D

o you know where your food comes from? Sadly, many children think food comes from the big

box chain grocery store. Teaching our children about real food sources, such as farms and community and family gardens, should also include teaching them about farmers and farmworkers. Do you think about the person who

picked the strawberry, kale, or green bell pepper that you are eating? More than 80% of our fresh produce, including most fruits and vegetables, is handpicked. It is estimated that between two and three million men, women, and children work in the fields in the United States alone. Many of the workers who harvest the

fruit, vegetables, nuts, berries and other foods we eat are migrant workers who often suffer injustices such as low wages, inadequate health care and lack of access to essential medical and dental services. Farmworkers remain largely invisible in our society and often live and work in dif- ficult or dangerous conditions. The stringent immigration laws recently enacted in many states across the southeastern United States are creat- ing new problems for farms. Immigrant children are being kept out of school, families are afraid to leave their homes, and farmworkers are choosing to leave their jobs, all due to fear of being deport- ed. Farmers are often unable to find U.S. citizens to help bring in their harvest and are resorting to extreme measures, such as

using prison labor. Student Action with Farmworkers was founded in 1992 to raise awareness of the injustices in the agricultural industry. They inform students about legislation, consumer boycotts and other justice ef- forts initiated by farmworkers. Luz, a NC farmworker and 2007 Student Action with Farmworkers documentary participant comments, “People don’t think that farm- workers are important. They are very im- portant, perhaps the most fundamental of human beings. Because, if there weren’t farmworkers, how would the work in the field get done? If there weren’t farmwork- ers, who would worry about planting something that you will eat?” Student Action with Farmworkers sponsors the Sowing Seeds for Change Fellowship, a 6-month leadership pro- gram for college students and recent graduates who work to improve farm- workers’ access to healthcare. Fellows work directly with rural health clinics throughout North Carolina, providing health education, case management, and interpretation for farmworkers. Student Action with Farmworkers just celebrated their 15th Annual National Farmworker Awareness Week to raise awareness about the working conditions of farmworkers. Events included an annual community presentation, blood drive, mural presenta- tion, fundraiser and community activities. Luke Walsh-Mellett, a 2010 Student Action for Farmworkers Intern adds, “Dur-

ing the past summer, I was able to talk to many farmworkers about their lives, and I feel both privileged to have gotten to know such amazing, hard-working peo- ple, and also ashamed at the conditions they are forced to live and work in, in our supposed nation of equal rights and op- portunity. Farmworkers, and immigrants in general, live as second-class citizens and it is time that people recognize and change that fact.” Since the founding of Student Action with Farmworkers, over 700 young people committed to social change through a youth program, a student organizing school and internships and fellowships; and more than 80,000 farmworkers gained access to health, legal and educational support, and over 150,000 community members advocated for farmworker justice.

Please join in a Pilgrimage for Peace

and Justice, April 13-18 in Raleigh, Cary, Greensboro, Winston Salem and Char- lotte. For information, email office@

For information about Student Action with Farmworkers, visit

When you pick up your fruits and

vegetables from your local farmer’s mar- ket this spring and summer, take the time to talk to your farmers, and thank them for the hard work they do out in the fields.

natural awakenings April 2014 21

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