Have you ever seen those “Thank a Farmer” bumper stickers? They might seem a little bit flip, but at its heart that sentiment is true. We can thank farmers and farm workers for every bit of food on our plates, so it’s important to consider farm workers rights when we’re shopping for food.
It can be tricky to choose food that’s good for you and good for farm workers, but it is doable. There are two major ways that you can support farm workers with your food choices: know your farmer or look for Fair Trade or Direct Trade certifications. The list below also includes a new food certification program that could make a dramatic difference in quality of life for farm workers.
Farm Workers Rights: 6 Food Issues We can’t Ignore
1. Bananas – Conventional banana production is a farm workers rights fiasco. Workers suffer debilitating illnesses and even death from the chemicals used in banana farming. Choosing fair trade or direct trade bananas is one good way to make sure that the bunch in your fruit bowl isn’t covered in blood.
2. Child Labor on Domestic Farms – Immigrant labor on farms in the U.S. gets a lot of attention, but we often overlook the child labor happening in our fields. This story of a young, pregnant girl who died on a California farm is a chilling example of our broken food system. The best way to make sure children didn’t pick your lettuce or strawberries? Shop local whenever you can! Know your farmer!
3. Fair Pay for Tomato Workers – If companies are willing to pony up just one extra penny per pound of tomatoes, it could make a huge difference in rights for tomato workers. Chains like Whole Foods have already committed to supporting farm workers right for tomato growers, but there are some big stores that are holding back.
4. Chocolate and Child Slavery – This is a story that seems to surface around Valentine’s Day and Easter, then becomes buried once again. Unfortunately, child workers and even child slaves pick cocoa year-round. Your best bet to avoid slavery chocolate is to choose Fair Trade or Direct Trade.
5. Female Farm workers and Sexual Harassment – Women working on farms face unique challenges. Female farm workers are often the victims of sexual harassment or even sexual assault, and they usually feel powerless to come forward. Read Olivia Tamayo’s story to see how difficult it is for women working in the fields. Like with child labor, the best way to address this issue is to know your farmer.
6. Improving Transparency – One depressing thing that the issues above all have in common: it’s very hard to tell if the food in your basket came at the expense of farm workers rights. Looking for Fair Trade or Direct Trade certification can help, but only a narrow range of products tend to go for those labels. A new certification – The Equitable Food Initiative – is working to improve working conditions on farms and certify farms that meet their criteria.