Thirty years ago, Cesar Chavez and a dedicated troop of organizers changed the way Americans think about food. For the first time since the end of the Ag Age, we were forced to consider the human costs of bringing cheap grapes to
our tables. The Grape Boycott may have made history, but it didn’t change the economic harvest corporate growers reaped. Thirty years later, the struggle continues. In an homage to Chavez, the United Farm Workers have embarked on an ambitious campaign called “Otra Vez” (“Once Again”) to organize farmworkers in California’s Central Valley. I am here at Campo de Justicia (Camp Justice), on the fringes of Delano where the air smells like an earthy mixture of pregnant grapes and cow dung. I join 40 compañeros from throughout California – and the country – in sowing seeds for a new history, one that grows spirits as successfully as pistachios. Every morning at 5:30, we race the dawn to meet workers in the dusty fields as they tie their scarves around their mouths, don their fruit-stained gloves and prepare for another searing day of picking. We traipse over dry, mud-caked lanes to speak to as many workers as possible before the mayordomo (crew foreman) arrives to officially start the day. By 7:00, we are back at Campo, debriefing, eating breakfast and gearing up for our next kamikaze ride through the labyrinth fields to find crews that we haven’t yet spoken with. We’re like meteorologists seeding clouds for an overdue rain, speaking one-on-one, sparking hope and collecting authorization cards from nearly everyone we speak with. We
crawl through grape vines in search
of the next worker fed up enough with feeding America, but not his or her own family. In the afternoons, we literally take our campaign to the streets, creating “Block Parties” along commuter routes to waylay farmworkers heading home. We hand out bottles of water at stop signs, urging workers to pull over and sign authorization cards. And they do! Today alone, over 300 workers signed up at the side of the road. And the numbers grow – as long as there are volunteers to ask them. Each day, each week, each volunteer here at Campo de Justicia adds to the momentum to change the course of history’s future. Come join us.