Farm work is hard work. Hefting heavy produce, squatting for hours, wrangling animals, sweating in the sun and soaking in the rain, farmworkers put in long days to ensure our access to fresh, nutritious food. On big industrial farms, workers are often sprayed with pesticides, forced to work long hours without breaks, harassed by managers, and paid incredibly low wages that make it nearly impossible to find safe, affordable housing and put food on their own tables.
This is one of the cruelest ironies of the American food system: that the very people who plant, pick and prepare our food are far more likely to go hungry. The farmworkers who keep our nation’s refrigerators full are struggling to feed their own families.
El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA), also known as The Farmworkers’ Support Committee, works to educate, support and empower farmworkers in their collective struggle for better working and living conditions. Started in New Jersey by migrant workers in 1979, CATA focuses on leadership development and capacity building so that farmworkers can make informed decisions about how to improve their lives–whether that’s organizing to fight corporations for better wages or learning how to grow their own food sustainably.
CATA’s programs use what’s called a “popular education methodology,” which actively involves farmworkers in the process of meaningful and lasting social change. This means that power is built from the ground up. The analysis of their current struggles and opportunities and the development of strategies for effecting change all come from the workers themselves and are informed by experience.
From providing health and safety trainings to cultivating local community farms and medicinal herb gardens to tackling systemic injustice in the food and farm system, CATA members in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland are invested in cultivating sustainable livelihoods for everyone.
For more on the great work CATA has been doing, visit cata-farmworkers.org
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