On the Present Past and the Struggle for Land Justice

by Kathleen Nay

On Wednesday, September 20th, Grassroots International hosted a reading and panel discussion with authors of a new book from Food First, entitled Land Justice: Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons at the Tufts Health Sciences Campus. The event was co-sponsored in part by the Tufts Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy (UEP) program, Friedman Justice League, and Friedman Student Council. Student Kathleen Nay reflects on what she learned. (A version of this article was also published at UEP’s Practical Visionaries blog.)

Land Justice Book Tour. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Land Justice Book Tour. Photo: Kathleen Nay

In undergrad, I had a history professor who liked to remind us that “the past is always present.” He opened each class period with a quirky anecdote tying the distant past to today. We learned things like the origin of the phrase “to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” and the ancient beginnings of practices we think of as quite modern: applying makeup or playing table games. He used the phrase as a mnemonic device to encourage students to remember the importance of history. While most of the historical snippets he shared escape me now, the idea that the roots of the past reach like tendrils into the present is something I still think about often.

But history is not always a quirky story about babies and bathwater. For many, historical oppression manifests as inherited present-day trauma. I’ve been reminded of this throughout my time in the Friedman and UEP programs, where I’m not only learning what it means to be an expert in my field (environmental and agricultural policy), but also where I’m learning to confront privilege in my life and practice, so as not to become a policy “expert” who ignores the lived experiences of others.

On the evening of September 20, around sixty people gathered to hear from the editor and coauthors of a new book from Food First, entitled Land Justice: Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons in the United States. Land justice is the idea that people and communities that have been historically oppressed have a right to land and territory. The book’s 20 contributors examine themes of privilege in property ownership; black agrarianism and liberation; women’s work on the land; indigenous leadership; migration and dispossession; the implications of transnational food regimes; land-based racism; and finally, opportunities for activism and healing. Notably, the volume includes a chapter on land access written by Caitlyn Hachmyer, a 2013 alum of Tufts University’s Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy program.

The evening began with a short mistica ceremony that grounded us, leading us to reflect on our relationship with the Earth and our place upon it. We honored those who have sacrificed (and are sacrificing) everything on the front lines of land justice; and reflected upon the ways in which we might continue learning and offering solidarity to those fighting for land justice. On the ground in front of us were seeds, soil, and signifiers of the struggle against capitalist interests and colonialist occupiers of contested land.

Mistica Ceremony. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Mistica ceremony. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Director of Food First and coeditor of the new book, Eric Holt-Gimenez opened with a reading from the volume’s introduction, which reflects on a mythos well-known to Americans and to New Englanders in particular, wherein Squanto [Tisquantum] shows the pilgrims how to plant herring alongside corn, to nourish the crop and ensure a plentiful harvest. What the mythic Thanksgiving story fails to capture, however, is that Tisquantum was a captive of European explorers. While held in Europe for 16 years, his tribes—the Massasoit and Wampanoag peoples of the “New World”—were decimated by disease introduced by the colonists who overtook their homeland.

The story of early America doesn’t offer much more hope for agrarianism. Over the next centuries, dispossessed British, Nordic, and European peasants led the transition from agrarianism to the Industrial Revolution, and over time agriculture became less about feeding people and more about feeding the capitalist machine that is corporate agriculture. Holt-Gimenez’s introduction to the book sets the historical stage by emphasizing that “racial injustice and the stark inequities in property and wealth in the US countryside aren’t just a quirk of history, but a structural feature of capitalist agriculture… In order to succeed in building an alternative agrarian future, today’s social movements will have to dismantle those structures.” When you begin to examine—really examine—the root causes of hunger in our country, he says, it all comes back to the land. The past is always present.

But there are seeds of resistance, and their stories are told in Land Justice.

The first author to speak at Wednesday’s panel was Kirtrina Baxter, whose contribution to the book centers on black women healing through innate agrarian artistry. In her talk, she introduced the concept of women as seed keepers. “Black women’s acts of creating are often relegated to carrying the seeds of the human population,” Baxter and her chapter coauthors write, but “through historical and contemporary narratives of Black women agrarians, activists, and organizers, we describe innate agrarian artistry as the creative, feminine use of land-based resistance to simultaneously preserve the people and soil.” Baxter et al. acknowledge women as creators—not simply as prolific wombs, but also as literal and spiritual seed keepers, carrying on the traditions of seed saving and telling “seed stories,” (the cultural missives that get passed down along with the seeds). Baxter’s chapter in Land Justice celebrates the historical resistance “of which Black women have woven quilts, sang spirituals, and foraged from the land for survival.”

Suyapa Gonzalez was the next panelist to speak. Though not a contributing author, Gonzalez is an organizer with GreenRoots, a community-based organization in Chelsea, Massachusetts committed to achieving environmental justice through collective action, unity, education, and youth leadership. Through a translator, she gave a rousing appeal for land justice in Chelsea, where much of the soil is contaminated from years of chemical dumping, and where 72% of households are renter-occupied. “After God, it is to la madre Tierra that we owe our lives. If [our Mother Earth] dies, we will also die,” she opened, and ended with a call for everyone to demand better protections for the land that gives life.

Panel speakers from left: Eric Holt-Gimenez, Kirtrina Baxter, Hartman Deetz, Suyapa Gonzalez (and Friedman AFE student, Nayla Bezares, translating). Photo: Kathleen Nay

Panel speakers from left: Eric Holt-Gimenez, Kirtrina Baxter, Hartman Deetz, and Suyapa Gonzalez (with Friedman AFE student, Nayla Bezares, translating). Photo: Kathleen Nay

The final coauthor to speak was Hartman Deetz, a member of the Mashpee-Wampanoag tribe and an activist for land justice and indigenous rights. Deetz owns two acres of Mashpee land in Cape Cod—two acres of land, he emphasized, which has perpetually been under Mashpee ownership and never owned by white men. He pointed out that North America is entirely stolen land, evidenced by the many places across the continent bearing now-familiar American and Canadian names, but rooted in indigenous words: Nantucket Island, Massachusetts; Narragansett, Rhode Island; Nashua, New Hampshire; the Dakotas; Ottawa, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; even Massachusetts itself. It’s a long list.

But the taking of indigenous land is not simply a footnote in the distant past. Here too, the past is present. Today the Mashpee-Wampanoag tribe is fighting the government for federal recognition of their tribal status and rights to retain ownership over 11,000 acres of ancestral land. Unfortunately, it’s a situation not unique to the Mashpee; in his Land Justice chapter, Deetz recounts his experience standing alongside the Standing Rock Sioux in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. People are still losing lives and livelihoods in the struggle for land justice.

Small group discussions. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Small group discussions. Photo: Kathleen Nay

The evening closed with a chance for attendees to break into small groups for discussion and reflection. My group took the opportunity to consider just how present the past really is. We reflected on how the histories of indigenous peoples and people of color, so deeply tied to land ownership (or lack thereof), are all but erased in our culture. I left with a deeper resolve to seek out those hidden histories, to use my profession and practice to amplify efforts for democratic community control of land, and to lend my support to organizations that do the same.

Kathleen Nay is a third year AFE/UEP dual degree student. This summer she discovered Native-Land.ca, a resource to help North Americans learn more about the indigenous histories and languages of the region where they live. If you have a zip or postal code, you too can learn more about your home on native land.

Advertisements

Obligations and Opportunities for Farmworker Justice

by Caitlin Joseph

Anyone who cares about public health and nutrition, affordable and healthy food access, agricultural sustainability, rural communities, international trade, or corporate social responsibility, should be paying close attention to how the recent rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy will impact the people the U.S food system is currently dependent on: farmworkers. On Wednesday, April 19, farmworker activists from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) who live and work on the frontlines of these issues will be at the Friedman School to talk about their current campaigns and their perspective on the recent political landscape.

Since its inception, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program (FFP) has revolutionized the fresh tomato industry in Florida, which Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy once described as “ground zero” for modern slavery (Stern, 2013). Hired farmworkers remain among the most economically disadvantaged populations in the U.S. They have some of the lowest wages in the workforce and experience frequent periods of unemployment, due to the seasonal nature of their work (CIW, 2014). According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, between 2007 and 2014, 25 percent of farmworkers worked more than 50 hours per week and were paid an average of $9.57 hourly. During that time, 24 percent of workers also had non-farm jobs throughout the year, 55 percent had children, and average family incomes ranged from $17,500 – $24,999 (National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016).

In addition to the economic hardship of farm labor, many workers face brutal working conditions that include extended exposure to the elements, sexual harassment and assault, physical and verbal abuse, and often-toxic contact with pesticides and farm chemicals (CIW, 2014; National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016; Strochlic, 2010). Moreover, an average of 66 percent of farmworkers did not have health insurance between 2007-2014 (National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016).

The CIW Approach: Third-Party Verified Corporate Social Responsibility

Through worker-led advocacy, CIW engages downstream brands in produce supply chains to gain commitments for its Fair Food Program (FFP), through which, companies agree to pay an additional penny per pound for the tomatoes they purchase in exchange for verification that growers in their supply chain are in compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which includes zero tolerance for forced labor, child labor, violence and sexual assault. Participating growers agree to use the premium they receive to increase wages for workers, and receive inspections from the Fair Foods Standards Council (Fair Food Program, 2015 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility, 2015).

Why is it effective?

Over time, retailers have gained an increasing share of the food dollar from farm to plate. As Figure 1 shows, the average monthly retail price of tomatoes in 2015 was 75 cents higher than in 1992, while the value received at the farm gate was one cent lower. Between 1992 and 2015, the percentage of the retail value received at the farm gate (the farm share) declined 17 percent.

 

Figure 1: Farm to Retail Price Spreads, 1992-2015

Source: Calculated by ERS, USDA, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

 

Mergers and acquisitions have increased the consolidation of market share in the retail industry and placed downward pressure on the prices for tomato growers (Kaufman, Handy, Mclaughlin, & Green, 2000; Sexton, 2010). While retailers took home the lion’s share of food dollar gains since the 1990s, farmers faced tightening margins and increasing import competition from Canada and Mexico, which now account for one third of U.S. fresh tomato consumption (USDA Economic Research Service, 2016). Mexico invested heavily in the development of protected plant varieties in recent years, allowing its growers to capture a growing share of the import market (USDA Economic Research Service, 2016). As a result, domestic farmworker wages remained stagnant at rates reflecting those of the 1970s (Asbed & Sellers, 2013). The FFP premium allows farmers to recapture the one-cent per pound of the revenue lost to retailers since the 1990s and siphons those gains to farm-laborers.

Wendy’s and FFP

Despite CIW’s success in securing commitments from major restaurant brands and retailers in recent years, Wendy’s remains the only one of the five largest fast food companies that has yet to participate in the FFP. Instead, it developed its own Code of Conduct, meant to satisfy organizers calling for the company to improve its practices. This code, however, doesn’t come close to providing the verifiable protections that the FFP’s Code of Conduct involves. Wendy’s has also shifted its tomato procurement to Mexico since the FFP began operating in Florida. As a result, CIW is calling for widespread pledges to Boycott Wendy’s until they comply.

Anti-Immigration Policies: Impacts on Agriculture and the Food Supply

While it remains unclear how the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies will hold up to further challenges in federal courts, we don’t have to look far into the past to find examples of how harsh policies and rhetoric can negatively impact domestic agricultural industries. In the years following the passage of strict anti-immigration policies in Alabama and Arizona, for example, workers fled, crops rotted in the field, and farmers lost revenue. Production of certain fruit and vegetable crops in those states dropped, as many produce farmers retired early or shifted production to trees and other less labor-intensive crops. Farmers and poultry processors in Alabama tried to save their industries by recruiting unemployed U.S. citizens to work in their fields and factories, but found that these workers simply weren’t up to the task, and many quit early.

 

These case studies serve as a warning sign that mass immigrant intimidation and deportation could result in shocks to our food supply, increased food waste to field losses (and associated natural resource waste), increased food prices, less wholesome foods on our plates, and further blows to rural agricultural economies that are already struggling. Conversely, analysts project that increasing farmworker wages enough to lift most out of poverty would 1) yield minimal impacts on U.S. consumer spending; 2) drive mechanization in agriculture, potentially increasing agricultural efficiency and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables; and 3) pose little threat to the global competitiveness of U.S. agricultural industries (Martin, 2011). Such estimates imply that ensuring safe, dignified lives for farmworkers in U.S. could benefit nearly everything we work for here at the Friedman School.

The Friedman Justice League will host the April 19th seminar, and hopes that faculty, staff, and students alike will attend to learn why we as citizens, students, and food system professionals should look to farmworkers’ struggle to lead our practice, knowing that their pathway to justice is the same pathway that can lead us to a healthier, more sustainable food system.

Caitlin Joseph is a second-year master’s candidate in the Agriculture, Food, and Environment program, specializing in Food Systems Planning and Public Health. She approaches food systems issues from a human rights framework, and hopes to use the tools she’s gaining at Tufts to help manifest a brighter future for people and the planet. Before grad school, her hobbies included gardening, teaching kids to garden, and making as many things as possible out of rhubarb (also from her garden).

Works Cited

Asbed, G., & Sellers, S. (2013). The Fair Food Program: Comprehensive, Verifiable and Sustainable Change for Farmworkers. U. Pa. J.L. & Soc. Change, 16(1). Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jlasc/vol16/iss1/3This

CIW (2014). Fair Food Program, 2014 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility. Retrieved from fairfoodstandards.org

CIW (2015). Fair Food Program, 2015 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility. (2015). Retrieved from http://fairfoodstandards.org/15SOTP-Web.pdf

Kaufman, P. R., Handy, C. R., Mclaughlin, E. W., & Green, G. M. (2000). Understanding the Dynamics of Produce Markets: Consumption and Consolidation Grow. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=42295

Martin, P. (2011). Would a raise for fruit and vegetable workers diminish the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture? (EPI Briefing Paper No. #295). Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/files/page/-/old/briefingpapers/BriefingPaper295.pdf

National Agricultural Workers Survey (2016) U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and

Training Administration. Retrieved 20 November 2016 from https://www.doleta.gov/agworker/naws.cfm#d-tables

Sexton, R. J. (2010). Grocery Retailers’ Dominant Role in Evolving World Food Markets. Choices Magazine, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, 25(2). Retrieved from http://econpapers.repec.org/article/agsaaeach/94763.htm

Stern, S. (2013). Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-Day Slavery: Report of Recommendations to the President. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/advisory_council_humantrafficking_report.pdf

Strochlic, R. (2010). Toward a More Socially Just Farm Labor Contracting System in California.

USDA Economic Research Service (2016). Tomatoes. Retrieved from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/vegetables-pulses/tomatoes.aspx).

 

 

 

 

Agricultural Workers Should Organize

by Maddy Bennett

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a farm workers’ rights group founded by laborers on Florida’s tomato farms. The organization now operates in many states to secure fair wages and to oppose involuntary servitude in the U.S. agriculture industry. CIW succeeded in bringing large food retailers to meet the terms of the group’s Fair Food Program. The work of CIW proves that when labor organizes to reclaim its rights, society benefits. Learn more by attending Friedman Seminar on April 19.

The valorized “efficiency” of the American farming system has historically relied upon shamefully poor living and working conditions for farm laborers, who, in the post-slavery era, were often immigrants. Slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, and guest worker programs provided exploitative and profitable business models rooted in unjust and predatory landowner–laborer relations. Today, the mistreatment of labor in agriculture remains a national embarrassment and a poignant reminder of our country’s apparent incapacity to rectify the historical and ongoing injustices committed against these indispensible yet highly vulnerable workers.

Now more than ever, large-scale fruit and vegetable farms in the United States are heavily dependent on migrant labor coming largely from Mexico and Central America. As most of these migrants are undocumented, they live and work under especially precarious conditions and may therefore be hesitant to organize to demand better wages, humane working standards, and an end to human trafficking, sexual abuse, and gender-based violence prevalent in farm labor. Yet those who dismiss farm labor abuses allege that the current paradigm is a necessary evil—or simply an inevitability—required to meet both the scale of production and low prices demanded by consumers. Not only is this patently false, but such a facile argument serves to discredit the development of alternatives to oppressive practices in the American farming system. In fact, one such alternative has proven its success in securing workers’ rights without unduly burdening farm owners, food retailers, or consumers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a workers’ rights and social justice organization started by farm laborers in Immokalee, Florida in 1993 in response to falling wages in the state’s tomato industry. CIW gained influence and industry recognition after organizing a hunger strike, a series of work stoppages, and fast food franchise boycotts that brought about improvements in wages and working conditions for tomato harvesters in Florida. CIW has also led the fight against endemic human trafficking and slavery taking place on American farms.

Six years ago, CIW rolled out the Fair Food Program (FFP) that educates farm workers about their rights and conducts third-party monitoring to ensure that just labor practices are being followed. FFP enlists large retailers, including Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, to sign on to be Fair Food Certified. By paying a premium, retailers help finance the enforcement of good labor standards, thus ensuring that worker dignity and human rights are upheld on tomato farms in Florida. Since 2015, FFP’s reach has expanded to farm laborers across six other states. Through its Campaign for Fair Food, CIW has educated consumers about the causes of and solutions to the rampant abuses against farm laborers. Mobilizing consumers to apply pressure to the largest food retailers has led to 14 companies joining FFP.

CIW is proof that farm worker agency, the right to organize, and cooperation among laborers, farm owners, and corporate retailers can help eradicate the scourge of unfair and inhumane labor practices and abuses in American agriculture, and that doing so need not come at the expense of consumers.

To learn more about CIW and its endeavors, please attend the Friedman Seminar on April 19—brought to you by the Friedman Justice League—during which CIW organizers will share their experiences, successes, and struggles.

Maddy Bennett is a second-year FPAN student and anti-work leftist from subtropical Texas. She enjoys vegan baking and tweeting hot takes.

AFE Students Visit University of New Hampshire’s Fairchild Dairy and Organic Research Farms

by Kathleen Nay

On Saturday, October 22, students from the Fundamentals of U.S. Agriculture and Agriculture, Science and Policy II classes visited two dairy farms at the University of New Hampshire. Kathleen Nay documented the field trip for the Friedman Sprout.

The maternity barn at the University of New Hampshire’s Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center. Fairchild is a conventionally-run dairy operation, typical of those seen across New England. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Saturday mornings are normally for sleeping in—the one rare day a week I can afford a leisurely wake-up time. Not today. Today my alarm is set for 5:30 am; I’m joining my fellow Agriculture, Food and Environment students for a day trip to visit two dairy farms at the University of New Hampshire: the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center in Durham, NH, and the Organic Dairy Research Farm in Lee, NH. Hot tea in hand and warm oatmeal in my belly, we make our way up I-95 and take in the beautiful fall colors along the drive.

Dr. Pete Erickson, professor of biological sciences and extension dairy specialist, meets us at the Fairchild Dairy where he introduces us to his doctoral student, Kayla Aragona, who manages several pregnant cows and calves in her research on colostrum quality. (Colostrum, the first milk produced after a cow gives birth, is key in supporting the health of her young calf.) They give us a tour of the Fairchild Dairy, a typical New England dairy operation that is home to about 90 milking-age Holsteins and Jerseys and 70 young replacement heifers. The facility relies heavily on undergraduate student labor, including students participating in the CREAM program (Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management).

Before entering any of the barns at Fairchild Dairy, we slip plastic disposable boots over our footwear. This is a biosecurity measure meant to prevent the spread of pathogens to or from the farm animals. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Before entering any of the barns at Fairchild Dairy, we slip plastic disposable boots over our footwear. This is a biosecurity measure meant to prevent the spread of pathogens to or from the farm animals. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Students begin the tour of Fairchild’s maternity barn. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Students begin the tour of Fairchild’s maternity barn. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Dr. Pete Erickson leads us on a tour of the facility and answers students’ questions about the New England dairy industry. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Dr. Pete Erickson leads us on a tour of the facility and answers students’ questions about the New England dairy industry. Photo: Kathleen Nay

 Second-year AFE/UEP student Tessa Salzman makes friends with a mama cow. Milk production from these mamas averages 26,000-27,000 pounds per cow per year. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Second-year AFE/UEP student Tessa Salzman makes friends with a mama cow. Milk production from these mamas averages 26,000-27,000 pounds per cow per year. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Dr. Erickson passes samples of corn silage around for students to feel and smell. Silage, a fermented, high-moisture stored fodder, is a primary ingredient in ruminant feed. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Dr. Erickson passes samples of corn silage around for students to feel and smell. Silage, a fermented, high-moisture stored fodder, is a primary ingredient in ruminant feed. Photo: Kathleen Nay

As a bovine nutrition specialist, Dr. Erickson knows a lot about dairy cows’ diets. Here, he shows us a mixture of dried citrus pulp and beet pellets. Beet pellets are a byproduct of sugar manufacturing. Photo: Kathleen Nay

As a bovine nutrition specialist, Dr. Erickson knows a lot about dairy cows’ diets. Here, he shows us a mixture of dried citrus pulp and beet pellets. Beet pulp pellets are a byproduct of sugar manufacturing. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Blood meal, a byproduct derived from the poultry industry, is a high-protein supplement added to cow feed. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Blood meal, a byproduct derived from the poultry industry, is a high-protein supplement added to cow feed. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Pictured: Friedman professor Tim Griffin. This is the sixth time Tim Griffin and Chris Peters have brought AFE students on this field trip to the UNH dairies.

Pictured: Friedman professor Tim Griffin. This is the sixth time Tim Griffin and Chris Peters have brought AFE students on this field trip to the UNH dairies. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Dr. Erickson shows students the dairy’s stores of animal bedding. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Dr. Erickson shows students the dairy’s stores of animal bedding. Photo: Kathleen Nay

A young Jersey calf reaches to scratch an itch. The dairy houses approximately 90 milking-age Holsteins and Jerseys, and 70 young replacement animals, which will become the new stock of milking cows once they reach maturity. Photo: Kathleen Nay

A young Jersey calf reaches to scratch an itch. Fairchild houses approximately 90 milking-age Holsteins and Jerseys, and 70 young replacement animals, which will become the new stock of milking cows once they reach maturity. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Students observe the Jersey herd up close. The milk from the Jerseys and Holsteins at Fairchild is sold to consumers as fluid milk and—everyone’s favorite dairy treat—ice cream. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Students observe the Jersey herd up close. The milk from the Jerseys and Holsteins at Fairchild is sold to consumers as fluid milk and—everyone’s favorite dairy treat—ice cream. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Holsteins watch as we peel off our protective boots and get ready to head to UNH’s organic farm. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Holstein cows watch as we peel off our protective boots and get ready to head to UNH’s organic farm. Photo: Kathleen Nay

After an extensive tour of Fairchild, we head seven miles down the road to the university’s Organic Dairy Research Farm. Established in 2005, this facility was the country’s first organic dairy operation at a land grant university. The farm houses roughly 100 organic Jersey cows, heifers and calves, and the property includes 275 acres of woodlands, crop and forage production, and land for pasture.

Brand-new calves greet us upon arrival at the Organic Dairy Research Farm. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Brand-new calves greet us upon arrival at the Organic Dairy Research Farm. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Students pose for a feeding photo-op. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Students pose for a feeding photo-op. Photo: Kathleen Nay

The organic herd is exclusively Jersey cows. As a breed, Jerseys are prized for the high butterfat content of their milk. These cows average 43 pounds of milk production per day. Photo: Kathleen Nay

The organic herd is exclusively Jersey cows. As a breed, Jerseys are prized for the high butterfat content of their milk. These cows average 43 pounds of milk production per day. Photo: Kathleen Nay

The milk from UNH’s organic herd supplies Stonyfield Yogurt, an organic yogurt company located in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Photo: Kathleen Nay

The milk from UNH’s organic herd supplies Stonyfield Yogurt, an organic yogurt company located in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Photo: Kathleen Nay

UNH’s organic dairy was the first of its kind to be established at a land grant university. Primary areas of research include dairy nutrition and feeds, pasture quality, forage production, compost production, and natural resource management. Photo: Kathleen Nay

UNH’s organic dairy was the first of its kind to be established at a land grant university. Primary areas of research include dairy nutrition and feeds, pasture quality, forage production, compost production, and natural resource management. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Friedman professor Chris Peters (in yellow) walks the pasture with Dr. Erickson and UNH graduate student Kayla Aragona. UNH manages 55 acres of pasture, in addition to 120 acres of woodlands and 100 acres of crops and forage. Photo: Kathleen Nay

Friedman professor Chris Peters (in yellow) walks the pasture with Dr. Erickson and UNH graduate student Kayla Aragona. UNH manages 55 acres of pasture, in addition to 120 acres of woodlands and 100 acres of crops and forage. Photo: Kathleen Nay

The University of New Hampshire’s Fairchild Dairy is open to the public seven days a week between 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Visitors can observe milking at 3:30 pm.

Kathleen Nay is a second-year AFE/UEP student and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography. In undergrad, she spent a semester photographing life on a small organic raw-milk dairy in Baroda, Michigan.

Overdue for Overtime

by Julie Kurtz

A new California law just enacted the most revolutionary labor standards since the creation of the 40-hour work week.  What is it?  Well, it’s the 40-hour work week. But will it improve equality? Will it impact the cost of your food? Will equitable farm labor make your vegetables healthier? And will the new law change the curriculum at Friedman?

On Monday September 12th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed monumental legislation that should be of interest to all Friedman students. California Assembly Bill 1066 will require that agricultural workers be paid overtime for working more than eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the current standard requires workers to work 10 hours/day and 60 hours/week before earning their overtime pay. The changes will be incremental starting in 2019, with full realization of the law by 2022 for most farms and 2025 for farms with fewer than 25 employees.

We take for granted the forty-hour week as a cornerstone of American work ethics, representing fair working hours and honoring the dignity of work. Many industries had a forty-hour workweek in place well before the 20th century. In the heat of the workers’ rights movements, victory came with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, guaranteeing a maximum work hour week—or overtime compensation when forty hours were surpassed.

However, agricultural workers were exempt.

As were domestic workers.

In the 1930s African-Americans were disproportionately employed in agricultural and domestic labor. President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labors Standards Act knowing it was a compromise with Southern Congressmen who had a vested interest in excluding black employees to preserve the plantation-style economy of sharecroppers and black domestic workers.

While there are practical reasons why agricultural workers remained excluded from the labor rights that most Americans enjoy, mostly related to seasonality, it is clear that enormous power differentials persist between farm laborers and farm owners. In California more than 90% of farm laborers are Latino, and 80% are immigrants. Given the long history of labor exploitation in US Agriculture, what does it mean that the agricultural giant California has set this precedent of equality? Will the new overtime legislation be effective? Or are there loopholes that will inevitably allow the continued overworking of farm laborers? Will other states follow in California’s footsteps? And finally, to bring things back home, why should California Assembly Bill 1066 be discussed at 150 Harrison Avenue?

One of Friedman’s great strengths is our integrated approach to food. Friedman extends into every corner of the food system, from cutting edge nutritional science, consumer behavior, and food policy economics, to the environmental impacts of agriculture. Our system-wide approach enables Friedman to engage one of the most complex challenges on the planet: how to feed ourselves. But there is a realm where our reach rarely extends: labor.

I came to Friedman in part because we ask questions like “Is this tomato that is grown in nutrient-rich biodynamic soils healthier than a conventional tomato? Is it healthier for our bodies? Is it healthier for the land and for the sustainability of agriculture?” I’m thrilled that my education is helping me answer and provide insight to those questions. I’m less certain where on this campus we can ask: “Is this tomato that was grown by an equitably-paid farmer who has access to healthcare, leisure time, and education, as healthy as a tomato grown by a farmer who works 12-hour days, sees her children only briefly at dawn and night, and lacks a nutritious diet, time for education, and access to medical attention?”

Can healthy food come from an exploited workforce?

Second-year students from Friedman’s Agricultural Science & Policy II course recognized this gap in our education and knowledge. We do not feel equipped to evaluate and understand the impact of California’s new law in the grander context of the food system. As policy students we frequently discuss the “inputs” that go into our food: technology, land, and fertilizers. Labor is another input. But labor is people. We need a different set of tools to consider the migrant harvesters, the meat processors, the truck drivers, and the line cooks—the people without whom nutrition students would have nothing to study in the first place.

Fortunately we have a supportive faculty who has recognized the hole, and are working alongside us to bridge the gap. In fact, the entire Friedman community is invited to help bridge the gap:

  • In October the Friedman Seminar Committee will meet to determine Spring 2017 Seminar speakers and they will consider agricultural labor experts. To that end, students are invited (as they always are) to send speaker suggestions to Christian.Peters@tufts.edu.
  • Due to student requests, two AFE core courses (Nutr215 and Nutr333) will dedicate classroom time to address farm labor and the new California law. Interested students are invited to attend those lecture and discussion dates, and can email Timothy.Griffin@tufts.edu for more information.
  • As Friedman administration seeks to hire new faculty, we urge consideration of candidates with expertise in farm labor, food system law and justice.
  • Second-year AFE student Caitlin Joseph is spearheading a student-directed course on Agricultural Labor Policy and Justice in Spring 2017. Students interested in joining should contact her at Caitlin.Joseph@tufts.edu.

California AB 1066 did not materialize out of nowhere. How does its signing fit into the broader picture of dismantling inequality in the food system? As Friedman students and faculty, can we satisfactorily discuss nourishment if we are not equally concerned with the welfare of those who bring food to our table? What models exist to dismantle this systemic oppression? What impacts will those models have on the environment, on the economy, on nutrition, on academia, and mostly pertinently, on the labor force? And how can we integrate those models into the Friedman curriculum?

Julie Kurtz is in her second semester of the AFE program. She landed at Friedman after acting professionally in San Francisco, practicing Emergency Medicine in Minnesota, and farming in Bolivia.