The people who grow and supply our food are very much in our minds right now as they work to feed everyone at the possible cost of their health or even their lives. In their honor, today on her birthday, April 10, we celebrate the life and leadership of legendary civil rights activist and organizer Dolores Huerta. The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit One Life: Dolores Huerta highlights Huerta’s role as a Latina leader and co-founder of the farm workers’ movement during the 1960s and 1970s. (Shout-out to colleague Fabiola Hernandez for bringing this exhibit to our attention!) Huerta and Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1962. Later the NFWA joined forces with the Agricultural Workers Organization Committee, which was led by Larry Itliong, a Filipino-American labor rights activist. It’s said that Huerta and Chavez were inspired by Larry during the Delano grape strike.
Essential viewing for the story of her leadership and the farmworkers’ struggle is the recent film portrait of Dolores Huerta: Dolores, available via Gleeson Library. For more on Huerta, there is also this fascinating interview with her, conducted by National Portrait Gallery staff.
One of many huge issues faced by farmworkers is their exposure to toxic synthetic pesticides. Organic farming practices can mitigate their exposure (not to mention its benefits in building healthy soil, combating erosion, supporting water conservation and sequestering carbon to combat climate change). Since 2017 USF has been the proud owner of one of the farms that started it all, Star Route Farms, the oldest continuously certified organic grower in California. The USF community can now buy a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), farm-fresh box of produce from Star Route Farms! Order and pay online; pick up Saturday mornings at USF or other spots around the Bay Area.
For learning about farmworkers and farming in California and the rest of the world, Gleeson Library provides access to a lot of films online. Below are a few of them — look in the library catalog for more.
Fighting for Farmworkers – Baldemar Velásquez was among hundreds of thousands of children who have joined their migrant parents working long hours in the fields. Shaped by that early experience, Velásquez founded the influential Farm Labor Organizing Committee. Here Velásquez joins Bill Moyers to talk about the ongoing David versus Goliath struggles to ensure fairness for American farmworkers.
Food (Justice) for All – The ways and means of America’s small farmers are evolving. Young Hispanic farm laborers in California’s Salinas Valley are moving up the economic ladder and training to become tomorrow’s organic farm owners. In Houston, Congolese refugees are creating communities around vacant urban lots.
From seed to seed – A documentary about the growing momentum of ecological agriculture, a blend of small and large scale farmers, cutting edge science with age old traditions, and fascinating folks.
Harvest of Loneliness: the Bracero Program – Historical documentary that sheds light on the debate over immigration and the use of “guest workers” in American agriculture. Including extensive interviews and archival footage, the film examines what was known as the Bracero Program – a system from 1942 to 1964 that recruited Mexican farm laborers for temporary work in the United States.