A Broken Agricultural System

This is the seventh and final dispatch from Student Action for Farmworkers in celebration of National Farmworker Awareness Week. For more information, visit the SAF website.

2016-03-31 Broken System 1

by Silvana Marr-Madariaga, 2015 SAF Fellow
Good Samaritan Clinic

As I first began debating what to do as a creative blog I thought a lot about narratives and creating space for farmworkers to share their own stories, identities, and thoughts. I considered carrying out a project centered on narratives and portraits, or perhaps stories and truths expressed through some type of short documentary. However, I kept thinking about the invisibility of farmworker and other worker narratives in relation to their product or harvest. By not connecting the worker to their work then it is neither seen nor given value.

Farmworkers put food on our tables and people often don’t consider who picked their fruit or planted their vegetables. It’s as if capitalism can bring you the perfectly shaped apple without the existence of a worker struggle that reaches back through agricultural history in the United States. It’s as if vegetables can appear in the store completely disconnected to farmworkers’ families struggling to buy those very vegetables that they labored over. This invisibility of history, hard work, and worker abuse makes that fruit or vegetable that much more edible.

Here are hand-written narratives from farmworkers I interviewed that I intentionally placed in the familiar context of the grocery store to push back against the systematic ways that workers and their rights are made invisible in the name of profit.

2016-03-31 Broken System 2
“Hello, I’m from Dolores, Hidalgo, Guanajuato (Mexico). I came here to work in the fields to help my family get ahead, especially my son, and I was also able to help my nephew so he continues to study. I came here to North Carolina in June. I work from 8:00 a.m. to 7 p.m., day after day, but it’s worth it because of the family. I hope I have the chance to return so I can help the family.”
2016-03-31 Broken System 4
“I give thanks to God for everything he gives me, for my  family in my country that I miss very much, [and] for my son’s life, and I  give thanks to all the people of good will who offer us a helping hand.”
2016-03-31 Broken System 1
“Life is a little bit better here. But we work in the fields because, honestly, we need money because we don’t have papers. On one hand it’s better and on the other it’s not. Sometimes in the fields there are many problems. And it’s difficult to work in the fields, especially for parents who have children. An immigrant struggles a lot to raise their children. I work in the fields so I can survive. -Veracruz, Mexico.”
2016-03-31 Broken System 3
“Being away from home far away from family each human being experiences different situations. Personally, I’ve learned to value the good moments that life has given me together with my family that I miss so much.”