The pandemic and attention on racial injustice this year have brought more awareness to issues facing the people who work in our food system. Workers on farms and in processing facilities have dealt with exploitation, abuse, low wages and dangerous conditions for a long time. We believe there’s a better way and that taking care of people is part of being a regenerative business.
While there has been progress thanks to advocacy for pay and protections, the people who help provide much of our food are still put in difficult situations. The system is broken, and it leaves workers at risk.
An industrial system that prizes efficiency and cheap products made workers feel pressure to stay on the job through COVID-19 outbreaks. Along with the pandemic, workers in the west have additional health concerns from wildfires.
These are just two of the numerous examples of how a fragile system is breaking down and hurting workers. And with the majority of them being immigrants, many from Mexico, issues of racial justice and food justice are hard to ignore.
Supporting efforts to provide a living wage, safe work environment, time off for illness and access to health care are part of regenerating the system so it can become more equitable.
We can do this on an individual level by making thoughtful buying choices and purchasing from producers committed to good, fair and just practices. We also have to keep in mind that systemic changes are needed as well. It’s worthwhile to research policies and consider how to support people and organizations trying to make a difference for workers. There are helpful suggestions and lists available from FoodPrint and Food Tank.
Caring for people and contributing to a healthy local economy have always been part of how we run our farm. From farmers and field workers to those who manufacture our products, we want to pay people fairly and treat them with respect.
We’ve found it’s possible to value people, animals and the planet – and still have a successful farm. A good bottom line and ethical and climate-friendly practices don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Each of us has the power to make decisions that create positive effects. Together, we can work toward a more resilient and equitable food system and a better world.