Working with farmworkers inspires college student’s New Year’s resolution

FarmworkersFrom time to time The Progressive Pulse is happy to publish the submissions of guest bloggers. This is a good one. 

My New Year’s Resolution: Understanding and Advocacy
by Leigha Kiger of Student Action with Farmworkers

Now that the New Year has come and gone and it’s the peak time for “get healthy” New Year’s resolutions, many people are attempting to adopt healthier eating habits. Eating fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables is an integral part of this process.

Unfortunately, while the public has taken an interest in the healthy food movement, oftentimes the farmworkers who work tirelessly to harvest these products are forgotten. For this reason, my New Year’s resolution is to learn as much as I can about farmworker rights and to increase awareness about these issues. Although farmworker rights is a relevant topic for all of us as consumers, oftentimes the food justice movement suffers from a lack of awareness. Inevitably the food we snack on comfortably in our homes is harvested by a farmworker whose human rights are being jeopardized. For this reason, farmworker justice should be an important issue for all.

So in addition to choosing healthier foods, learn where these foods come from. In North Carolina alone, there are 150,000 farmworkers during the peak growing season who harvest a variety of crops including anything from Christmas trees to tobacco. Trapped in a physically enduring job in the hot sun, our state’s hardest workers are forced to live a life in the shadows of injustice. At 40 cents per bucket (5/8 bushel), a farmworker must pick and haul two tons of sweet potatoes to earn $50 (Fair Labor Standards Act). As a result, those that put the food on our table struggle to feed their families themselves. As we enjoy quality time with loved ones over a warm meal, the injuries laborers sustain during harvest go unnoticed.

Organizations like Student Action with Farmworkers work to expose these injustices and bring awareness to the farmworker rights movement. Little by little, together we can work to bring justice to those whose rights are often forgotten. This New Year commit to real change: advocate for the farmworkers whose voices go unheard.

For more information about farmworker issues, please visit http://www.ncfan.org. Awareness is our biggest ally in spreading the word about farmworker rights; so if you would like to host a screening of the documentary Harvest of Dignity at your home, work, or place of worship, please contact Nadeen with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) at nadeen.bir@duke.edu. With thoughtful discussion we can both learn from each other and unite in the fight for farmworker rights.

Finally, if you would like to take direct action you can join us for the Historic Thousands on Jones Street march and rally this Saturday, February 9th. More information can be found at http://hkonj.com/.

Leigha Kiger is a student organizer for Student Action with Farmworkers. She is a senior at Duke University and is completing her English degree. She became involved with immigrant rights after working with day laborers in her hometown of Jupiter, Florida.

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