In northern California, a new program is giving much needed opportunity to farm laborers.
ALBA Organics is leasing organic farmland at subsidized prices to laborers who would otherwise be in the fields, picking lettuce, celery, or spinach, from dawn until dusk. The laborers, many of whom have emigrated from Mexico, work the land as independents, and then sell their produce back to the ALBA Organics cooperative.
The cooperative also provides training to new farmers, as well as supplying them with things like fertilizer and irrigation tools. And while the subsidized rate of lease only lasts the first few years, it might be the leg-up some farmers need to get their start.
The program aims to give longtime migrant workers the tools to become autonomous in business. It appears to have had some amount of success too, as 90 ALBA-trained farmers have successfully been able to start independent farms off-site from the cooperative since the program’s initiation in 2002.