Farmers and Farmworkers Unite to Save America’s Small Farmers
Farm Labor Reality Tour Hits the Road to Demand Change
Brewer, Maine (February 15, 2013) – The Farm Labor Reality Tour, a two-week caravan across 15 states to unite dairy farmers and farm labors across the country in their fight for justice, dignity, and fair pay, kicked off today. Led by three grassroots organizations representing small farmers, farmworkers, and food justice activists, Family Farm Defenders, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Food for Maine’s Future, the tour aims to draw attention to the shared struggles of all people who work in America’s fields.
“The people who grow food for this country – be they independent family farmers or farmworkers – are not getting paid a fair wage for their work. That has to change,” said Wisconsin dairy farmer Joel Greeno of Wisconsin-based Family Farm Defenders. The organization was inspired by the success of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ consumer-oriented “penny more per pound” Fair Food Campaign, which has won agreements for higher wages and improved working conditions from some of the biggest fast food companies in the world. Family Farm Defenders has been strategizing with the CIW on the Land O’Fakes campaign to change the structure of dairy pricing to ensure a fair wage for farmers. The Farm Labor Reality Tour will promote the campaigns of both groups.
Beginning in Brewer, Maine, the Farm Labor Reality Tour will head west to America’s Dairyland states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and arrive in Immokalee, Florida, on March 2 to begin a two-week, 175-mile March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food led by the CIW. The march is expected to draw together thousands of people to call on grocery giant Publix to stop the exploitation and abuse of farmworkers who pick their tomatoes.
The tour will promote Family Farm Defenders’ Land O’Fakescampaign, which calls on consumers to demand that Land O’Lakes pay its member farmers a living wage for their milk. Land O’ Lakes is a dairy cooperative, but as one of the biggest dairy processors in the nation, it has dramatically driven down the price farmers are paid. Consumers are asked to demand that Land O’ Lakes stop manipulating dairy prices through speculative trading and stop pushing costly genetically modified hormones and seeds on their member farmers.
Tour highlights include:
February 22-23: MOSES Organic Farming Conference, LaCrosse, WI. Representatives from Family Farm Defenders, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and Food for Maine’s Future will convene a forum to discuss the conditions of farm labor in the U.S.
February 25-26: Farm labor solidarity panel discussion events, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, including farmers, students, and representatives from the Twin Cities’ co-op community.
March 3-17: CIW March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food, Immokalee-Lakeland, FL. The march will conclude at Publix Headquarters, where CIW and allies will again call on Publix to join the other 11 companies who have joined Fair Food Program. In March 2012, Lakeland was the site of the CIW’s six-day Fast for Fair Food.
The Farm Labor Reality Tour is coordinated by a coalition of grassroots farm labor organizations with support fromWhyHunger. To get involved or join the tour, contact Bob St. Peter (contact info below). Supportive organizations are also invited to send letters of support for the tour, the Land O’Fakes campaign, and/or the CIW March for Rights, Respect, and Fair Food.
Family Farm Defenders
Family Farm Defenders’ mission is to create a farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food and fiber system, based upon democratically controlled institutions that empower farmers to speak for and respect themselves in their quest for social and economic justice. To this end, FFD supports sustainable agriculture, farm worker rights, animal welfare, consumer safety, fair trade, and food sovereignty. FFD has also worked to create opportunities for farmers to join together in new cooperative marketing endeavors and to bridge the socioeconomic gap that often exists between rural and urban communities.
Food for Maine’s Future
Food for Maine’s Future is a grassroots organization led by small farmers, farmworkers, and their patrons and supporters. Since 2006, FMF has worked on behalf of Maine people and their communities using popular education and grassroots media, community organizing, direct action, and legislative advocacy. Representing Food for Maine’s Future for the entire 4,500 mile round are board member Bob St.Peter, his wife Juliane Perry, and their two daughters. The Perry-St.Peter family rent a four–acre farm in Sedgwick, Maine, where they raise small livestock, flowers, seeds, and produce for sale from the farm and at local farmers markets. In March 2011, Sedgwick became the first of eight Maine towns to pass a Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance to help preserve small farms, cottage food businesses, and traditional farming practices. This “local food, local rules” movement has sparked efforts around the country to reform food and farm policy from the bottom-up.
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a community-based, farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, Florida, with over 4,000 members. The CIW seeks modern working conditions for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in accordance with national and international human rights standards. The CIW has forged an historic partnership among farmworkers, over 90% of Florida tomato growers, and eleven other leading food corporations. Together, these partners are building a new tomato industry that advances the human rights and dignity of farmworkers while enhancing the sustainability of the industry. By committing to the Fair Food Program, the 11 participating corporations agree to purchase their Florida tomatoes exclusively from growers who meet more humane labor standards, as well as to pay a penny- per-pound premium to help lift workers out of abject poverty. Gerardo Reyes Chavez of the CIW will be represent the Coalition at the farm labor forum at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference February 22-23 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
Food AND Medicine
Food AND Medicine’s mission is to organize, educate, and empower workers and our communities in the fight for economic and social justice. Food AND Medicine believes that by working together with unions, farmers, community groups, small businesses, and faith-based organizations we will create solutions and positive change. Food AND Medicine has been uniting family farmers and labor since 2005. Each Thanksgiving,FAM provides hundreds of boxes of food to laid-off workers donated from local farms and businesses. At the February 16 press conference to formally kick-off the tour in Brewer, Maine FAM board member Scott Belanger will address the difficult issue of farmer suicides and the impact on families and communities when dairy farmers are paid less than what it costs to produce their milk. Scott is a dairy farmer, cheese maker, and psychiatric nurse practitioner.
WhyHunger is a leader in building the movement to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment. Founded in 1975 by the late Harry Chapin and current Executive Director Bill Ayres, WhyHunger works to put an end to hunger suffered by 49 million Americans and nearly 1 billion people worldwide.