Blog: Farmworkers

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Bon Appétit Management Company is pleased to announce that it has joined the campaign for Food Day, a nationwide celebration of real food and an effort to improve health, the environment, and America’s food system. It’s a grassroots mobilization to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. On October 24, 2011, people will gather at events big and small and from coast to coast in homes, schools, colleges, churches, city halls, farmers markets, supermarkets, and elsewhere to both learn and advocate.

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The conditions that farmworkers face in the everyday course of trying to do their jobs are grueling, often dangerous, and sometimes even abusive. It’s the age-old “if a tree falls in the forest” riddle: if these problems are invisible to most Americans, do they really exist? The answer is yes, of course they do. And I am proud to have worked on a 65-page report about farmworker employment issues that documents them.

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Industrial-scale agriculture often exacts a steep human cost. That was one of the lessons I learned last week from farmer Bob Knight and farmworker Marco Franco of the Inland Orange Conservancy, Bon Appétit at the University of Redland’s first Farm to Fork partner. They were the guest speakers at one of our Stories from the Fields events, held at the University Club.

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The Oxfam Hunger Banquet is the only banquet I’ve ever attended where I was served just rice and water. The banquet, held March 7 at Seattle University, makes the inequalities of our world vividly clear in order to raise awareness about the experience of hunger and get people thinking and talking about how to take action to fight poverty. I used it as a jumping off point to also talk about the injustices experienced by female farm workers.

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By Vera Chang, West Coast Fellow for Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation  As West Coast Fellow, I’ve been traveling to some of Bon Appétit’s 1,000 Farm to Fork partners to understand their on-the-ground practices and challenges. I met farmer David Hoyle in between attending the Food Justice Conference in Eugene and presenting Stories from the Fields, about farm worker issues, at Lewis & Clark College. Dave and I chatted for a while in the rain on his farm, Creative Growers, tucked away in the back roads of Noti, Oregon.

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Farmer Bob Knight (on right) with Bon Appétit Management Company Biola University Chefs By Vera Chang, West Coast Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation “Farms are getting huge. Real estate is expensive in California. Farming in the global food economy requires [farmers] to have thousands of acres. Farmers that used to have 10 or 20 acres are now being pressured to buy 4,000 acres.” We are at the Bon Appétit Management Company Student Ambassador Program at Biola University, a kick-off event for thirty students to get to know some of the people behind food: Bon Appétit chefs, staff, and farmers. Executive Chef Peter Alfaro just spoke about the path that led him to work in the kitchen and his passion for making the food system more sustainable through purchases as a chef. Biology professor and head of the Biola Organic […]

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By Vera Chang, West Coast Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation US Government Wildlife A few months ago, a National Vice President of the United Farm Workers Union came to Bon Appétit’s office to discuss a potential collaboration between our organizations. In our conversation, we noted challenges we both face over the question: How can we institutionalize justice for farm workers? Vice President Erik Nicholson commented, only half jokingly, “Sometimes I wish farmworkers were salmon because then people might care enough to protect them.” His comment is worrisome because he may actually be right… Click here to read the rest of my article, 'Swimming Upstream for Farm Workers' Rights' on Triple Pundit.  

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March 23-24, 2010 Boston, MA   Do you know how many tomatoes a Florida farmworker has to pick in order to fill one 32-lb bucket? Do you know how many buckets Florida farmworkers have to fill in an hour in order to make the FL minimum wage?   These were the questions I asked students at Emmanuel College (Boston, MA) and Lesley University (Cambridge, MA) to answer during a recent visit. As students poured through the doors of the café, pushing past each other and trying to beat the lunch lines, I stood by the entrance shouting “Answer two quick questions and win a free pizza party!” And I was happy to learn that even though I’m almost a full year out of college, some things haven’t changed: students still love pizza, (especially when it’s free :0)   The purpose […]

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   By Vera Chang, West Coast Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation Here is my latest piece on our Triple Pundit business of sustainable agriculture series: When Commodities Traders See Tomato Pickers in Action. It’s about the Student Farmworker Alliance and Farmworker Rights Workshop I participated in at Strengthening the Roots: Food and Justice Convergence.