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Make a fair labor meal

Sanjay Rawal

March 31, 2013

A workers group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, has one of the most comprehensive fair labor programs in the nation. Go to Whole Foods or Trader Joes (the only 2 participating retailers) and buy their Florida tomatoes. You can be assured that the workers were treated and paid well. Grocery stores don't usually monitor the labor standards on farms they support. The only way to really ask the question "How are the workers who pick my food treated?" for crops other than Florida tomatoes is to ask a farmer himself or herself. If you live near a farm - great! If not, find a farmers market and ask a farmer about the conditions on her or his farm. Many small farmers are trying to do the right thing so ask them nicely. When you're satisfied with the answer, let them know you're glad they take workers' rights so seriously. Buy copious amounts of produce, make your favorite meal and enjoy something that's not only good for you, but for all the people who helped make it possible.

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  • Nisha Vida

    Will be hosting a farm-to-table dinner at Muir Ranch at John Muir High School in Pasadena on June 2. We will harvest veggies grown by the students (many of them are paid for their labor), and use veggies grown at family farms local to the LA area. Students will help cook a meal catered by Large Marge Sustainables. We will feed about 150 people. I try to cook fair trade at home, grow many of my own veggies, and try to get locally grown/backyard farmer food. I'll complete this 'do' after our dinner. :)

    • Sanjay Rawal

      Wow!! Nisha, that's fantastic!

      • Nisha Vida

        The dinner is tomorrow evening. Here is the menu:

        Eggs come from local, urban LA farms, honey & vast majority of produce from the school farm itself. The school farm (Muir Ranch) has its own CSA program and pays students wages for their work after school and during the summer. I'm not sure where the wheat is from but the chefs donating their chefery to our dinner are most likely using properly sourced ingredients...

        If you are in the LA area, you should come to our next dinner. :)

        • Sanjay Rawal

          This looks so awesome! I wish I could've joined!

          • Nisha Vida

            Come to the next dinner! We are still working on the time/date, but it should be toward the end of July. I will comp your ticket, unless you want to donate, of course! Feel free to contact me: vida @

            Also, question: in your investigations of tomato farms (plantations?) did you happen to learn about whether the tomatoes were genetically modified or not? And if so, how many farms were GMO vs non-GMO?

  • Nisha Vida

    What does this entail? Eating food I have grown? Supporting local farmers? Ensuring that there are fair trade labels on items I purchase?

    Other thoughts here?

    • Sanjay Rawal

      So the difficult thing is that while there is a Fair Trade USA label - it's in its infancy and most veggies and fruits aren't certified. There really is no domestic fair labor certification in action - except if you're buying tomatoes in the winter (they'll be from Florida). So the question really is: how can I determine whether the people who picked my food were treated well?

      Since there is no real labeling process, we have to become citizen-investigators. It's easy to investigate when you ask farmers directly - like at farmer's markets. And if you're satisfied that they pay they workers well, allow complaints, and have proper pesticide safety programs (easier if they're organic), then buy from them.

      Ultimately, growing your own food is the simplest way to ensure fair labor but most people don't have that luxury, at least not year-round.

      You can also ask your grocery store how they can guarantee that the produce they stock was picked by labor treated fairly. They won't be able to (except for Florida tomatoes at Whole Foods and Trader Joes). But asking the question will make this To-Do much easier in the years to come.

      Thanks Nisha!

      Anyone else have thoughts?

      • Nisha Vida

        Great information! Thanks! Also, I would love to host screenings of your docu when it comes out! Thanks for your hard work. :)