Tag Archives: Heather Surprenant

When Will We Confront Our Other Agricultural Shame?

Marita Canedo and Jose Ignacio De La Cruz of Justicia Migrante

The first agricultural shame is the polluting of our lakes and waterways. The second: migrant farm labor. This isn’t a new story by any means, but it’s still true that we have failed to come to grips with a system that (a) props up the farm economy with cheap, pliable labor and (b) is, by definition, wage slavery.

Like I said, not a new story. But it got a human face Thursday morning before the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Two members of Justicia Migrante, Jose Ignacio and Marita Canedo, spoke to the committee about the sorry state of worker housing on Vermont’s oh-so-picturesque farms. And they offered reasonable, practical ways to address the problem.

They were remarkable witnesses. They aren’t asking for pity, and they certainly have no use for condescension. They do want some basic protections for their working and living conditions (the kind we all take for granted), and they want some funding to help them and the farmers address the housing problem. They can’t do it by themselves, and the farmers can’t afford it.

They also have solid ideas for new kinds of farm housing. Ignacio, who spent four years as a migrant laborer, now works for New Frameworks, a firm creating sustainable, low-cost ways to design and build housing for farmworkers and others.

As you can perhaps tell, I was inspired by their testimony. These people are smart, hardworking, and willing to put their noses to the grindstone to gain a safer, more stable life.

What they’re asking for is really the least we should do. We have a moral obligation to change a broken system that takes advantage of the people who raise and harvest our food.

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