The panelists involved in last night’s inaugural food labor event offered us sobering perspectives on agricultural workers, as well as hopeful and heartfelt encouragement to continue advocating about these issues. Food labor is an issue that should be important to all eaters, but it is one that can be intimidating to address. Nevertheless, it is a growing conversation and we are bolstered by the waiting-list crowd that came to Ecotrust last night to learn more about how their food is harvested.
For the Slow Food Portland Steering Committee, it took weeks of passionate discussion to figure out how best to address the people who feed us. As our internal debate grew, so did our understanding of just how multifaceted these issues are and how necessary it is to initiate a continuing dialog around them. To that end, we could not have imagined a better kick-off event for our food labor series than last night’s panel - the panelists’ comments and the insightful audience questions suggested countless narratives to follow as we delve more deeply into fair food.
As I write this post, I am listening to an episode of OPB’s Think Out Loud devoted to Oregon migrant labor and thinking of how this issue of labor has gained momentum in the last year. It seems like the moment is right for this discussion, that it is on everyone’s lips. At the panel, we heard about the lack of value placed on manual labor, the inequities of food access that go hand-in-hand with poor labor practices, and the simple fact that farmers often make little more than their workers. Last night was an opportunity to expand the discussion to include a few more voices and we’d like to do so even further. Going forward with “The People Who Feed Us” series, we welcome your suggestions for labor issues to cover. Do you want to hear more about domestic fair trade certification? Women in farming? Young farmer training? Migrant labor issues? Immigrant farmer services? Join in the conversation and help us to make this series as strong as the first event.
A special thank you is in order for our panelists Jeff Falen, Jim Bronec and Ramon Ramirez. Their presence expanded Slow Food’s table and made the conversation richer.