|Food Justice Delegation surveys Florida tomato fields, 2009.|
A movement towards sustainable food and agriculture has spread throughout the U.S. and now permeates national consciousness. This diverse movement includes consumers seeking organic produce, groups supporting small farmers and ranchers, initiatives to bring healthy food into school cafeterias, and urban agriculture projects improving food security in low-income neighborhoods – to name just a few examples.
Yet too many discussions about sustainability render invisible the three million farmworkers at the base of our food system. These are among the poorest, least protected workers in the U.S. Farmworkers toil on both conventional and organic farms in often dangerous conditions that routinely include sub-poverty wages, no benefits whatsoever, and no right to organize or collectively bargain with their employers. In the extreme, workers face situations of modern-day slavery.
Human rights are integral to real sustainability. This insight gave birth to Just Harvest USA in 2007 following conversations between sustainable food and agriculture advocates and members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida-based farmworker organization leading an innovative and broadly supported effort to improve tomato harvesters’ wages and working conditions.
Since its founding, Just Harvest USA has worked tirelessly to build bridges between the movements for good food and fair food. In the years ahead, we will continue to promote a vision of sustainability that views farmworkers as indispensable partners in the effort to reform our nation's food system.