In 2009, four members of BSB traveled the west coast to visit farms, work with migrant farmers, ask questions about our produce industry… and film every second of the journey. The resulting footage became our self-titled documentary. Sure, it all happened over three years ago—but our project seems more relevant than ever in light of recent protests from Skagit Valley farm workers.
A program in the Skagit Valley—the Youth Migrant Project—inspired the documentary in the first place. And in the past week, workers from Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington, WA protested wages, management, and the hire of temporary visa workers for the late summer harvest, among other things.
Knowing what we know about migrants after the documentary, their wage demands aren’t surprising: they want a raise from 30 cents to 70 cents per pound. But we also know that picking berries can be tedious labor—even just picking enough to reach a couple cents.
Though the Sakumas have accommodated some worker demands, others have been tabled for an unknown period of time. The farm owner, Steve Sakuma, says that he can’t financially afford to raise wages—but overall, he was glad to address the protests quickly.
Many factors (and hands) go into the produce you buy at the market—and sometimes farmers are forced to compromise worker wages and conditions in the process. We’ve found that the situation is far more complex than farm owners simply withholding money from their laborers.
Check out some of our documentary clips (here and here) to learn more about BSB’s experience—and click here for a short history of the Youth Migrant Project. Let us know what you think: about farm management, worker rights, or the situation in Burlington. Leave us a comment!
Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.