For this episode of Partisan Gardens, we learn about the conditions facing migrant farm workers in California.

We share a two conversations: one between Partisan Gardens and Nikola Garcia, author of a recent article in Inhabit: Territories called “The Farmworker Caravan: Mutual Aid in California’s Migrant Worker Communities.” The other is a conversation between Nikola and Darlene Tenes, founder of a grassroots initiative called the Farmworker Caravan.

Through her organizing, Darlene has been able to witness the conditions of migrant farm workers in California and thus can paint a vivid picture of the harsh conditions under which much of the produce in North America is grown. Based on growing up in California with family who have also worked in the food industry, Nikola shares some of their experiences, contributing to Darlene’s portrait of labor exploitation.

As people who are not undocumented themselves, both are able to freely speak to such things as the working conditions during wildfires and pandemics, and the ongoing use of child labor in agriculture. But Darlene is also able to speak to the joyful feelings and camaraderie shared by farmworkers and the caravan  participants as the caravan traveled through California’s migrant communities, distributing food and practicing mutual aid.

The farmworker caravan’s success is impressive, and Darlene walks us their organizing methods. Coming from a background as an event planner, she shows the impact that a person can have; although, as she puts it, feeding 500 families at a single event is just a drop in the bucket given the desperate poverty created by the produce industry in California.

Thank you to Darlene and Nikola- you can find their interview in Inhabit: Territories.

Antonio Roman-Alcala analyzed other elements of the California food system and the exploitation of farmworkers in an episode last spring, Building Food Sovereignty.