Farmworker Convocation on Domestic Fair Trade

On May 18th -19 farmworkers from across the U.S. gathered in Bellingham, WA for the 2nd Annual National Farmworker Convocation. Hosted by Community to Community Development, and facilitated in partnership with Centro Campesino, the gathering served as an opportunity for dialogue and reflection on the future of domestic fair trade and the role of farmworkers in creating a more just, healthy and sustainable agricultural system.

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Domestic fair trade is a movement that uplifts family-scale farms, farmer led-initiatives such as farmer co-ops, just conditions for workers, and organic agriculture as the cornerstones of a better food and farming system. During the farmworker convocation attendees examined the Principles for Domestic Fair Trade. These principles, written by stakeholder groups throughout the supply chain envision a world where:

  • Contributions of all workers and farmers are valued
  • Human rights and human dignity are affirmed and promoted
  • Fair Trade is synonymous with fair wages, fair prices, and fair practices
  • Risks and rewards are equitable and shared, and this information is open and available to all stakeholders
  • Information is readily available on the origin, processing, and distribution of every product
  • All practices are environmentally, economically, and socially just, sustainable, and humane
  • Direct trade and long-term relationships dominate the economy
  • Strong local communities are the foundation of society
  • Power is shared; development is community-driven and cooperative
  • Cultural and indigenous rights and diversity are recognized, honored, and protected.

In addition to the Principles for Domestic Fair Trade, farmworkers also examined evolving certification programs for domestic fair trade such as the Food Justice Certified label of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP). AJP’s standards were developed over four years of stakeholder input involving farmers, farmworkers, and indigenous, retail, and consumer groups and are an attempt to codify in concrete terms what making a legitimate claim of “social justice” in organic and sustainable agriculture means.

Farmworkers at the convocation shared how high-bar agricultural workplace standards and domestic fair trade principles were, or in most cases were not, upheld in their current work environments. In the Pacific Northwest, for instance, farmworker harassment has drawn increased scrutiny as reported in a recent KUOW story. In light of this, the standards helped facilitate rich discussions about domestic fair trade implementation and articulate farmworker priorities in the movement. While a wide range of concepts surfaced, women s empowerment and the role of eco-feminism in domestic fair trade resonated with many participants. “If my work was valued the same as a man’s, I would never want to leave working in the fields. I love working the land,” said a women farmworker from Everson, WA. Farmworkers also articulated how domestic fair trade could promote a much needed alternative definition of work that aligns with value systems rooted in the well being of the community, not just individuals.

Unsurprisingly, immigration reform and the current proposals in Congress were pervasive throughout the convocation. In particular, farmworkers discussed the guestworker provisions and the continued reliance on temporary foreign labor that leaves farm and food workers vulnerable to exploitation (See David Bacon, Rosalinda Guillen, and Mark Day’s recent op-ed for New America Media). Beyond an in depth exploration of the current immigration reform bill, farmworkers had the chance to hear about campaigns, such as The Dignity Campaign, that advocates for an immigration reform bill based on human rights. In addition, farmworkers also had a chance to hear from US Food Sovereignty Alliance members about immigration reform principles based on food sovereignty and workers rights.

After a long, full day the convocation culminated in a reception at Bellewood Acres where local farmers, and other community members, heard from farmworkers about their vision for a more just and sustainable agricultural system. Angelica Villa addressed the gathering amid shouts of Si Se Puede!, “We are learning quickly that the values and principles of Domestic Fair Trade are a way for farmworkers to be treated with dignity at work and have hopes for better wages. We will continue to educate farmers and farmworkers on the values of bringing fair trade to our communities.” The reception was also a joyful celebration featuring a Son Jarocho performance by Community to Community Development s youth group Raices Culturales; a beautiful reminder that the heart of this movement is the next generation and the world we want to leave for them.