Beyond Organic: Narratives of our Local Food System was the Friends of the Community AgroEcology Network's (FoCAN's) first Local Intercambio that focused on facilitating a space for dialogue surrounding fair labor practices and transparency in our local food systems.
Our vision was to include representatives from across the food system, including farm supervisor Bear from Swanton Berry Farm, farm workers Adilene, Jennifer, and Francisco from the Out of School Youth organization in Monterey County, Eloise, a female farmworker from the Center for Farmworker Families, and Victor Escobar owner of Chelitos' restaurant. The goal of the panel discussion was to clarify misconceptions about the meanings of organic production. This space provided a unique opportunity for the Santa Cruz and UCSC community to highlight the untold experiences, feelings, and ideas for innovation in the treatment of these people who work tirelessly to make our food available for consumption.
Swanton Berry farm manager, Bear, shared how many times the resources of organic farms do not allow the owners to improve labor conditions such as providing restrooms that are close to the work areas or better wages than their conventional counterparts.The community was shocked to discover that although fruit on organic farms are firmer--making harvesting easier--the danger to pesticides exposure still exists. Another worker shared her story of jumping to pick blackberries, hoping that she did not damage them on her way down highlighting the mistreatment of those who practically feed us. Consumers of all ages eagerly requested information on where they could be part of the move to expand the conversation from simply how and where our food is grown to include who is producing our food.
The FoCAN student team is entirely grateful for having the panel participants share their stories with the group and would like to let them know that this is just the beginning of the conversation. The insight from these diverse members of the community truly represents and highlight the amount of human power that exists in our food system. We would also like to thank Nancy Vail, co-founder of Pie Ranch, as our guest speaker who provided excellent insight on how to take a "holistic approach to food systems by ensuring fair treatment of workers, fair pricing for farmers, and fair business practice through Food Justice Certification". Also thank you to our collaborators: El Centro, Campus sustainability Council, Common Ground, India Joze, and the Community Agroecology Network for their full support.