MEET A FARMER
My name is Margarita Garcia. I am from Oaxaca, Mexico. My mother tongue is Mixteco, but I speak Spanish, and am studying English and American Sign Languages. I was born into a nucleus of farmers and I have always been a farmer. Today I work picking grapes in different areas of Sonoma County. I also participated with Jobs With Justice in the 5 for Farmworkers campaign. I am deeply proud to be part of this campaign, which allows me to assert my own voice and above all, that of my farmer and indigenous community
Describe a typical day on your farm.
A typical day is not getting enough sleep, getting up at 3:00 am to get ready for work, sometimes driving more than an hour to get to work. I arrive half an hour early for the orientation on what is to be done, which blocks we have to work, and what type of grape is going to be picked. Also very early we sharpen the knives and the equipment that we are going to use for the grape picking. It is rare to take a 10 or 15 minute break, but lunch break is almost always a given.
Name three unexpected sensory delights of agriculture.
During the night at the lunch break I love to lie on the ground to look at the stars and feel the ground. It is also wonderful to hear the wind blowing at night and feel the cold dew that falls while you work. During the early mornings, listening to the songs of the birds encourages us to continue working despite the fatigue. The most wonderful thing is to see the first rays of the sun, to heal the soul with the natural world.
What sustainable or environmental practices are you most proud of?
My greatest pride is being able to share my time with farmers and indigenous people because we share life experiences, the importance of caring for the countryside, and our fight for certain rights. At the end of the day, we all agree that working on the land is done out of love, for the honor of receiving the crops each year. We see this as a grain of sand towards sustainable justice.
If you could change one thing about the food industry, what would it be and why?
What I would change is the type of food we eat. Fruits and vegetables should be grown naturally without so many chemicals that poison our bodies.
What is your biggest challenge as a farmer?
Climate change, as well as the uncontrollable heat that fatigues us while we work during the day, and the cold when we work at night. In recent years we have experienced climate change directly, through the fi res. Many times we have worked long hours of the day with smoke and ashes that irritate our throats, noses and eyes. The more we breathe the smoke, the more sensitive our noses become, causing allergic reactions. It also affects us economically because the smoke pollutes the grapes and they can no longer be picked per ton. When contaminated grapes are thrown out, we convert to working hourly, and our salary decreases, causing us losses during the season. Today more than anything, we as humans living on this planet, must become aware of how we live if we want to save it.
When you are not cultivating, what are you doing?
I study, get involved in the community, and work cleaning houses in the county. I am currently taking Child Development classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, because in the future I would love to be a special education teacher.
5 FOR FARM WORKERS
As climate-change fueled wildfires continue to disproportionately impact low-wage immigrant workers, farmworkers have developed the 5 For Farmworkers priorities for safety and respect during the wildfire grape harvest.
• Language Justice
• Disaster Insurance for Workers
• Community Safety Observers
• Premium Hazard Pay
• Clean Bathrooms and Water
“Though immigrant workers in the fields of California are often referred to as “farmworkers,” for purposes of this interview we think the title of “farmer” is more appropriate, since often, the only circumstance which distinguishes who gets what title is property or business ownership. The fields of Sonoma County are filled with immigrant farmers who have been tending the land for centuries, and who carry indigenous knowledge and practices that could benefit us all, if we stopped to ask them.”
Director of Organizing,
North Bay Jobs With Justice