On Job Creation—Local Fruits and Vegetables vs. Corn and Soybeans

Link: On Job Creation—Local Fruits and Vegetables vs. Corn and Soybeans


“It turns out that foods that are better for you may also be better for farmers and local job creation. A new study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University found that expanding fruit and vegetable production in the upper Midwest could bring significantly more economic benefits than conventional corn and soybean production on the same acreage.

The study, by Iowa State Research Scientist Dave Swenson, looked at the potential for fruit and vegetable production in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It identified 28 kinds of fruits and vegetables that farmers are able to grow in the region. Currently, much of the fruits and vegetables in the region come from other parts of the country or even outside the country.”

Lest I be accused of sniping too often, this is definitely good stuff. 

-Julia Childless

Migrant Farmworkers’ Health Issues


The agriculture industry is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. While farmworkers face workplace hazards similar to those found in other industrial settings, such as working with heavy machinery and hard physical labor, they also face unique occupational hazards including pesticide exposure, skin disorders, infectious diseases, lung problems, hearing and vision disorders, and strained muscles and bones. Lack of access to quality medical care makes these risks even greater for the three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers who work in the fields every year.

In 2007, for every 100,000 agricultural workers in the U.S. there were 25.7 occupational deaths in agriculture. This compares to an average rate of 3.7 deaths for every 100,000 workers in all other industries during this same year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention label agriculture the most dangerous industry for young workers in the United States, accounting for 42 percent of all work-related fatalities of young workers between 1992 and 2000. Fifty percent of these victims were younger than 15 years old.

During their daily work, farmworkers are often exposed to pesticides. A 2002 study examined take-home organophosphorus pesticide exposure among agricultural workers and found pesticides in dust samples from 85% of farmworkers’ homes and 87% of farmworkers had pesticides in dust samples in their vehicles. In addition, 88% of farmworker children had organophosphate metabolites in their urine.

Infectious diseases among the farmworker population are caused by poor sanitation and crowded conditions at work and housing sites, including inadequate washing and drinking water. Farmworkers are six times more likely to develop tuberculosis when compared with other workers, and rates of positive TB results between 17% and 50% have been reported throughout the United States.

Because farm labor consists of constant bending, twisting, carrying heavy items, and repetitive motions during long work hours, farmworkers often experience musculoskeletal injuries. Furthermore, workers are often paid piece-rate, which provides an incentive to work at high speed and to skip recommended breaks. From 1999 to 2004, almost 20 percent of farmworkers reported musculoskeletal injuries. (National Center for Farmworker Health factsheets)

At the risk of being The Annoyingly Serious One, I encourage you to read this. 

-Julia Childless

Prayer of the Farm Workers’ Struggle

Link: Prayer of the Farm Workers’ Struggle


Show me the suffering of the most miserable;So I will know my people’s plight.

 Free me to pray for others; For you are present in every person.   Help me to take responsibility for my own life; So that I can be free at last.      Grant me courage to serve others; For in service there is true life.    Give me honesty and patience; So that I can work with other workers.   Bring forth song and celebration; So that the spirit will be alive among us.    Let the spirit flourish and grow; So we will never tire of the struggle.    Let us remember those who have died for justice; For they have given us life.    Help us love even those who hate us; So we can change the world.

Written by Cesar E. Chavez

Since I like to mock backyard-gardening-framed-as-farming, I have to reblog Cesar Chavez here. Because one of my main problems with a good chunk of “foodie” culture is that it likes to portray itself as somehow saving the world through dilettantish subsistence farming and suchlike. Meanwhile, farmworkers the world over are still struggling to barely make a living wage (and in some cases free themselves from literal slavery). 

So. Happy Cesar Chavez day, foodies and nonfoodies alike. Take some time today to think of the people who grew and picked the food you’re eating.

-Julia Childless