Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Preoccupying Observation

Image: Los Angeles Times

Twice, on my way home from the gym last winter, around 6:15am, I noticed a tractor in a strawberry field that surrounds Oxnard High School. The headlights cut through the dark, the tanks contained some chemical, and its extended arms sprayed a mist. The driver donned a full protective suit.

As I drove by on Gonzales Road both times, I considered how the aerosol of the fumigant would affect, immediately or deferred, high schoolers that walked to campus within the next hour.

And as I started my morning constitutional around the perimeter of my workplace, California State University Channel Islands, this past week another tractor blanketed the crops (perhaps cabbage, who knows) off Potrero Road with some substance. This time, the driver did not wear a white panoply or respirator. So I worried about this person’s well-being, the students that resided in the dorms across the street and mine as I walked away faster.

The scene of crop spraying is common on the Oxnard Plain that encompasses the communities of Ventura, Oxnard, Somis, and Camarillo. In this rurban (not completely rural or urban) corridor, the business of agribusiness is in open view. Petrochemicals are part of the air we breathe, especially for fieldworkers. They are the most vulnerable. That is a central reason why strawberry pickers are covered and masked in clothing from head to toe, even during the hottest of days.

This leads me to ask, what is being sprayed on our food? How do such chemicals affect the health and well-being of farmworkers? Can such spraying take place earlier in the morning or later in evening so that farmworkers and our children will not be as exposed? Perhaps, non-profit, private, and government agencies can effectively provide the public with answers?

Con Safos

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Imperial Agriculture: A Curious Unions Talk

Image: Los Angeles Public Library

I will give a talk based on my book Curious Unions this Saturday, May 11th, at the Ventura E.P. Foster Library starting at 6pm.

A focus of the presentation will be on the history of farm worker housing on the Oxnard Plain.

As I have done previously, I will contextualize the creation of my book in how it challenges the Jeffersonian myth (the alloy of agricultural fact, fiction, distortion, and the omission of historical truths). In this regard, I have referenced in previous presentations this year’s Dodge Ram Super Bowl XLVII “Farmer” commercial.

To compare the Dodge Ram Midwestern perspective of the “Farmer,” here is Salvador Barajas’s “The Idea of Farmers”, a more inclusive photographic interpretation of the Paul Harvey verse.

See you at the E.P. Foster Library.

Con Safos