Ten Questions with Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice

From foodtank.com, by Jacob Siegler
Ten Questions with Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice

Food Tank, in partnership with the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, Farm-to-Fork Program, and University of California, Davis, is excited to announce the 1st annual Farm Tank Conference at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento on September 22–23, 2016. This two-day event will feature more than 35 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for interactive panels.

The event will feature interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees.

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, who will be speaking at the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?

Bruce Goldstein (BG): The efforts of the United Farm Workers during the 1970’s inspired my interest in farmworkers, and after going to law school and becoming a labor and civil rights lawyer, I had the later opportunity to join Farmworker Justice as a staff attorney to represent farmworkers, an opportunity I seized.

 

FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?

BG: The biggest opportunity to fix the food system lies in the greater interest of consumers in knowing and caring about how their food is produced and being willing to spend their money to bring about change at companies in the food system.

 

FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?

BG: I’m excited about the creative ways groups and individuals are addressing the need for affordable, healthy food in poor communities where it has not been available.

 

FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?

BG: Carlos and Alicia Marentes established the Border Agricultural Workers Center in El Paso, Texas to help farmworkers. They saw farmworkers sleeping on the streets of El Paso, getting on buses early in the morning for a 2 or 3 hour ride to the chile harvest in New Mexico, and coming back at night. Many were Mexican citizens living across the border but it was too time-consuming to cross the border each night, and they could not afford to pay for lodging. In the mid-1990’s, the Center opened a shelter with beds, bathrooms and kitchen facilities to help ease the problems these migrant farmworkers experienced.

 

FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?

BG: What drives me every day to fight for bettering of our food system is the difficulty that so many hard-working farmworkers face in their daily lives and the unfair obstacles that prevent many from achieving better lives.

 

FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn't have to deal with?

BG: Unhealthy fast food.

 

FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?

BG: Unfairness toward many food workers, especially farmworkers in the fields, that results in poverty, poor health, and many other harmful consequences that can be solved.

 

FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

Tell your supermarket that you want your produce to come from farms that have been certified by legitimate independent organizations, including corporate social responsibility projects and labor unions, as treating their farmworkers fairly.

 

FT: What’s one issue within the food system you'd like to see completely solved for the next generation?

BG: I’d like to see the problems experienced by farmworkers solved: including discriminatory employment laws, a broken immigration system, illegal employment practices that are widespread low wages, lack of fringe benefits, unnecessarily dangerous jobs, lack of access to health care, inadequate infrastructure in their communities, and discrimination in employment laws.

 

FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?

BG: The next President should immediately address the broken immigration system by working with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to immigration status and citizenship for current undocumented farmworkers and their family members and for future farmworkers if more foreign citizens are needed in agriculture.