Elizabeth Henderson is co-chair of the Interstate Council policy committee of the Northeast Organic Farming Association and represents the Interstate Council on the Board of the Agricultural Justice Project.
Elizabeth Henderson farmed at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, New York, for more than 30 years. Peacework CSA was one of the first community-supported agriculture farms in New York State. She is co-chair of the Interstate Council policy committee of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), and represents the Interstate Council on the Board of the Agricultural Justice Project. Elizabeth is the lead author of Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007), with a Spanish-language e-book edition in 2017. She maintains the blog The Prying Mantis.
Who is going to do farm work? This is a crucial question for US farms and for people who want to eat food grown in this country. Except for the very smallest, all farms need more than one set of hands to get the work done. As a farmer myself, I hear farmer friends talking about the difficulties they are having (along with many other employers) in finding steady, reliable, decently trained local workers. But even when these farmers stretch to offer more than they are earning themselves, few family-scale farmers can afford to pay living wages with a competitive package of benefits. The long history of racism and theft of land from native peoples sets the context for undervaluing food production. US food policy has relegated farming to the role of providing food as cheaply as possible with heavy pressure to cut from the bottom. In response, there is a long history of organizing to improve conditions for farm labor. Farmworkers themselves and even some farmers are creating alternatives. Let’s examine the options available to farmers and steps that can move us towards a system that produces healthy food for all while providing a decent life for the people who do the work.