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"Organic Farming Doesn’t Mean Fairer Labor" Topic


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Tango0116 Dec 2016 11:42 a.m. PST

"Just ten miles north of Santa Cruz, a battered black-and-yellow pickup sits rusting in the grass along a gorgeous stretch of coastal California highway. From its bed rises a huge strawberry-shaped silhouette of red-painted wood with green tufts sprouting from its top to mimic leaves. A sign behind the truck says "Jam Tasting" and points past an aging wooden barn to the headquarters of Swanton Berry Farm—the first organic unionized farm in America.

The terms "organic" and "unionized" rarely appear together for a reason. Gaining organic certification and unionizing workers is expensive and time-consuming. To farmers already operating with tight profit margins, the prospect of doing both can be daunting. Bruce Goldstein, president of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Farmworker Justice, estimates that of the roughly 2.5 million farmworkers in America, only around 25,000 are unionized. And only a small percent of those 25,000 work on organic farms.

"I have sympathy for farmers who feel they can't afford to pay their workers better," says farmer Jim Cochran, who founded Swanton in 1983 and is now a spry, white-haired 69-year-old. "I'm trying to prove that it's economically feasible to offer good benefits and a living wage and still make money without any subsidies."…"
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