On March 30, 2015, in honor of Cesar Chavez Day, the Silicon Valley HealthCorps participated in a Day of Service. We went to Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale, where we learned about its programs, successes, and challenges, and helped out on the farm. We also held a potluck and discussion of what Cesar Chavez day means to our work, to our communities, and to us.
This was a very unique potluck for us. In keeping with the theme of Cesar Chavez Day, our supervisor Elena challenged us to bring in a dish made from ingredients grown by farmers who are treated well. As many of us discovered, this is much harder than it seems. We discussed what we made and how we interpreted and implemented the parameters of the challenge. Some of us used ingredients we grew ourselves, or asked the farmers at markets if they are happy (a sometimes awkward question) before buying their products, others looked for fair trade labels on ingredients in stores. I looked towards sourcing from family farmers who are members of Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and with whom I have worked. Some of us purchased organic ingredients, knowing that at the very least the workers aren’t exposed to the harmful chemicals used on conventional farms. Some challenges that came up: these ingredients are often more expensive (a difficult hurdle on our AmeriCorps budgets), or that there weren’t fair trade options, or the produce labels say “Product of California,” giving the buyer no way to trace the farm or its conditions.
One observation stuck out to me especially. It seems like the conditions and rights of farm workers is a little known and not often talked about aspect of the food system, that even we, advocates who live and work fighting for food justice, have a hard time understanding. Environmental health, public health, equal access, animal rights – these are all, and rightfully so, hot button topics with many advocates (us included) fighting for justice. But what about the health and well-being of fellow humans, those whose work we value and rely on to literally keep us alive? This is not to say that farm workers are going unnoticed, or that we should assume they are being treated unfairly, or that there aren’t people out there pushing for fairness. But as we learned at our potluck, there is considerably less information. It is very challenging to go to the grocery store and buy food being certain that those who grew it were treated well. It requires a fair amount of guessing and assuming. It has definitely been something to think about this Cesar Chavez Day.
Nina Waysdorf is serving at Community Alliance with Family Farmers as a Farm to School Educator, where she helps to coordinate the Harvest of the Month program and teaches it in eighteen classrooms in San Jose. The program encourages elementary school students to try new fruits and vegetables grown by local, family famers by introducing them in a fun and educational way. She also leads a weekly Garden Club with fellow HealthCorps members Carly and Jenny of Bronco Urban Gardens.
To see more pictures from our Day of Service, like us on Facebookand check out the album!