Why you should care
Because the food that comes to our table has a history — of its growth and the people who toiled in the soil.
Unsung Uncles of the Farm Labor Movement
When you hear “farm labor movement,” you might not think of the Filipino farmworkers who started it all. Mexican-American civil rights leader César Chávez is the poster child of the U.S. farm labor movement. But a crucial cast of characters lies largely hidden in history’s shadows: the Filipino farmworkers — aka the Delano Manongs — who ignited the first spark. Although streets, schools and even a national holiday bear Chávez’s name, the Delano Manongs have few official recognitions. This is how the older uncles made things happen. Read more here.
The Real Price of a Tomato
There’s no question that this century has seen rampant foodie-ism. Consumers petition against pink slime and GMOs. Menus wax poetic about purveyors. We demand that our hens roam free and our cows be slaughtered with care. Lost in the frenzy: the 1.4 million people who pick and pack produce in America’s fields. They’re vulnerable to all kinds of abuse, including outright slavery, and typically earn a pittance. Mostly, these workers are beyond the purview of elite “sustainability” concerns. Oddly, the foodie movement pays greater attention to animal welfare than to farmworker welfare. Have you ever checked whether the person who picked that organic arugula was paid a fair wage? Now, a new kind of labor rights movement is on the rise. Read more here.
Why the Amish Are Looking for a New Home
The Amish may have become too profitable for their own good. The rolling pastures dotted with grazing cows, fields of corn and classic buggies driven by Amish in hats and bonnets are the key attractions for visitors to Lancaster County, home to more than 30,000 of the Pennsylvania Dutch. But the office of tourism — indeed, the entire state — has reason to worry. The Amish, with their emphasis on family, hard work and simplicity, have drawn hordes of tourists but also an influx of residents, malls, roads and housing developments. The upshot? Swaths of farmland have been lost, and many Amish are now choosing to give up farming or leave the state to pursue quieter surrounding and cheaper land. The commercialization of their lifestyle has grown so much “that it actually threatens the viability of the very tourism industry it created.” Read more here.
The Forgotten Green Giant
Norman Borlaug is little-known in the United States, the country of his birth. But agronomy isn’t sexy, and neither are fertilizer, dwarf hybrid seeds and irrigation. But Borlaug, who would have turned 100 this month, was the face of the Green Revolution, which brought high-yield seeds, plant hybrids, fertilizers and other technologies to the developing world. Such agricultural innovations were credited with saving a billion people from starvation and earned him a Nobel Prize. What the Green Revolution 2.0 will yield is still unclear. What is clear, though, is that the seeds of Borlaug’s revolution have spread throughout the world. How they take root is yet to be seen. Read more here.