Ten Questions with Baldemar Velasquez, President and Founder of The Farm Labor Organizing Committee

From foodtank.com, by Baldemar Velasquez
Ten Questions with Baldemar Velasquez, President and Founder of The Farm Labor Organizing Committee

Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016. 

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more. 

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Baldemar Velasquez, the President and Founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, who will be speaking at the summit.

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

Baldemar Velasquez (BV): I was raised as a migrant farm worker living in squalid labor camps. I watched my family being cheated out of wages and suffer verbal abuses from field men, labor contractors, growers, and racist townspeople in the rural towns we worked in!

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

BV: Bring about freedom of association in agricultural commodity supply chains for growers and farm workers as consumers become more conscious of conditions of food origins.

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

BV: The current attention to supply chains. Direct employers are not entirely responsible for many abuses, but consumers are smarting up to hold manufacturers and retailers also responsible for the consequential results surrounding food safety, the environment, and worker rights.

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

BV: My mom and dad, who found a way to feed us in the midst of the severe poverty. Sometimes not very well, but we survived!

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

BV: Always visiting farm workers in their labor camps, bringing together some of the most impoverished workers in America, and listening to their stories!

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

BV: The polarization of wealth in the food supply chain. Many local markets were eliminated from harvests production as production moved towards corporatization.

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

BV: Reforming rights of small producers and farm workers in the food production supply chains.

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

BV: Heed the calls and requests of the oppressed who take up the banner of struggle for justice in food production systems.

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

BV: Joint employment responsibilities on the part of manufacturers and retailers for everyone in their supply chains.

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

BV: Enact National Labor Relations Act-type legislation for farmers and farm workers that address joint responsibility of manufacturers and retailers!

To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the livestream HERE.

To join us at Food Tank's São Paulo, Brazil Summit in September 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Sacramento, CA Summit on September 22–23, 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Chicago, IL Summit on November 16–17, 2016, please click HERE

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE

Want to watch videos from last year's Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. include: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Chaia DC, Chipotle, Clif Bar, D.C. Government, Driscoll's, Edible DC, Elevation Burger, Fair Trade USA, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Global Environmental Politics Program of the School of International Service, Greener Media, Inter Press Service, Leafware, Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, Panera Bread, and VegFund. 

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