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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Yolo County Farm Workers Festival held in Woodland celebrated the work of Chicano and Latino farm workers

The festival featured several vendors, performers and resources to show appreciation for farm workers

 

By CHRIS PONCE — city@theaggie.org

 

On Friday, Oct. 6, Brown Issues, a Chicano and Latino activist organization hosted its first “Yolo Farmworkers Festival” event in partnership with the city of Wodland. The event took place down Main St. to celebrate and demonstrate support for farm workers. 

“Where’s La Raza at?” a dancer dressed in traditional feathered indigenous headdress and attire said as they welcomed people into the festival. 

The event featured several Chicano/Latino vendors, crafts, food and artists who were all there to support farm workers.  

Brown Issues provided meal tickets for the farm workers and their families and will be giving away scholarship funds to the children of farm workers, according to Elyse Doyle-Martinez, an educator from Cache Creek High School and an advisor with Brown Issues in Yolo County. 

“A lot of the stories in Woodland and throughout California started in the fields, started in agriculture work — mine included,” Doyle-Martinez said. “So we’re celebrating those stories that put us in positions to be able to call ourselves college graduates, educators and artists and all these cool things. But we owe it to someone, so we’re celebrating those stories and also the stories of the people who are out there right now and still planting those same seeds of hope for the next generation.”

One of the booths present was the Center for Workers’ Rights. The group specializes in assisting workers with unemployment insurance, disability issues and wage theft, as well as connecting workers with legal counsel and other workers’ rights, according to Cesar Aguirre, a member of the group. 

“We are really happy to be here and expand our resources to the farm workers. We know that is a demographic that often stays neglected [and] exploited and we support all workers,” Fatima Garcia, lead community organizer for the Center for Workers’ Rights, said. “We can’t say we support all workers before supporting the most vulnerable.” 

The event comes during National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time when Brown Issues has held Chicano/Latino celebration events in the past. 92 percent of farmworkers in California are Latino, according to a 2013 report by the California Latino Legislative Caucus

Doyle-Martinez spoke about the decision to change the theme of this year’s celebration to be focused on farmworkers rather than only Chicanos/Latinos. 

“The last two years we’ve done a Chicano/Latino heritage celebration. This year we combined it with the Farm Workers Festival — we just decided to do it all,” Doyle-Martinez said. “Right now we’re highlighting the farmworkers, but a lot of the farm workers are Chicano/Latino, right?”

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) and civil rights activist, posted an Instagram video on Oct. 3 inviting people to attend the event. Huerta was originally considered to be a speaker at the event according to Doyle-Martinez. 

“It was huge, we were trying to get her [Huerta] as a speaker to be our keynote for the night, but she ended up having her own event she was throwing down for the foundation,” Doyle-Martinez said. “So she ended up doing that shoutout for us, which was legit. Hopefully we can get her next year and make this event bigger.”

While the UFW didn’t formally help organize the event, Antonio De Loera, communications director for the UFW and candidate for Yolo County Supervisor in District 4, attended the event. De Loera talked about a 2016 report by the California Institute for Rural Studies that discussed findings that 47 percent of farm worker households were food insecure.

“Almost 50 percent of farm workers in Yolo County are food insecure,” De Loera said. “That means that the workers, the very workers who pick all the food that makes this county such an agricultural productive place, often struggle to feed their own families. And that’s just a really tragic irony that has to be resolved. […] That’s really where the UFW comes in, where unionization can help address that poverty at its root cause [is] the low wages that so many farm workers make.”

De Loera believes that celebrations like this are important, but that energy needs to be used for changing policy as well. 

“It’s good to celebrate, but we also need to put our money where our mouth is and make sure farm workers in Yolo County and across California have all the rights that they’re entitled to,” De Loera said. “So for example, heat; they’re under extreme temperatures. Farm workers need access to shade, to water, to rest breaks. In theory, that is the law in California, [but] unfortunately, we know that including here in Yolo County — I’ve personally seen it — it doesn’t always go enforced. Workers are often afraid of speaking up. So I think events like this are good, but […] that also needs to turn, not just into celebration, but also into policy.”

 

Written By: Chris Ponce city@theaggie.org