Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
"WE CELEBRATE the 40 years of ministry of the National Farm Worker Ministry!"
I am Dominique Aulisio. Through volunteering with NFWM and starting a Youth and Young Adult Network chapter in Orlando, I have had the opportunity to get to know farm workers and work hand in hand with them to fight the injustice they face.
YAYAs learn about hope, share in each others' cultures, and learn the organizing skills we need to impact our world. As a young person, working with NFWM as an ally to farm workers has given me confidence in our power to change the systems that oppress farm workers and keep our communities divided. NFWM/YAYA is unique and vital to the farm worker movement and to the broader fight for social justice. I am grateful to have the continued opportunity to work alongside NFWM in the farm worker movement.
I am Olgha Sierra Sandman. I came from Mexico to enter a college for women in training for missionary work hoping to be sent to Africa. That changed when I had the opportunity to work for two summers for the National Migrant Ministry. After my marriage to Rev. Bob Sandman, we continued in Migrant Ministry.
In May 1971, I attended the first meeting of the National Farm Worker Ministry Board in La Paz, CA. I was fortunate to be a part of the evolving of the Migrant Ministry into the National Farm Worker Ministry. NFWM opened the door widely and I entered. The farm workers also opened their arms and embraced me, both giving me many opportunities to work side by side.
Forty years later, I reflect in gratitude and praise God, for giving me this life-time opportunity to be part of a movement of justice, for learning from the farm workers about self-determination and sacrifice, about fighting for dignity, and respect and for bringing to our tables the food that sustains life.
Written in my heart are Cesar Chavez's words of wisdom: "When you work for justice, you can't afford being a sprinter, you must be a long distance runner." As I approach the finishing line, I'm ready to pass the baton on to all future runners for justice who will, as I have, stay the course and support the National Farm Worker Ministry and its courageous stand to be faithful to the struggle of the farm workers.
I am Maria Vidal. Years ago, I worked in the fields picking apricots and peaches near Stockton, California. When I learned that 15 farm workers had died from heat stress in California's fields since 2005, I was motivated to act.
Now I am a volunteer with the National Farm Worker Ministry's Support Group, LIVE - Luces y Voces de Esperanza. I and my fellow supporters seek ways that our people can be valued for their work. Above all, we bring farm workers hope that their dignity as persons will be respected. We let them know that they are not alone. It is a privilege to give my time and be in solidarity with the National Farm Worker Ministry, because NFWM works to see to it that farm workers have a voice.
The National Farm Worker Ministry -- which Presbyterians and the Hunger Program have been engaged with for decades -- celebrates 40 years of solidarity and accompaniment with farm workers. Board chair Felix Garza and director Virginia Nesmith give some background and an invitation to support this work. Tomorrow, we'll hear from Olga, Dominique and Maria about why they love NFWM.
More than 90 years ago, state migrant ministries began providing services to farm workers. Decades later, those ministry leaders were ready when farm workers began organizing in the fields and called on religious groups to accompany them. In 1971, they founded NFWM as a national organization to mobilize faith community members in the farm worker struggle for justice.
For 40 years, we have been privileged, along with you, to accompany farm workers in the fields and in the supermarkets, in labor camps and corporate offices, on the streets and in the halls of Congress.
You have helped farm workers win better wages and working conditions and the right to enforce those through union representation; the recognition from many food service companies that we all share in the responsibility to improve the conditions of those who pick our produce; and new laws such as those requiring mattresses in labor camps.
Yet we grieve for the many workers who continue to be exploited by our broken system, risking their health and their lives to put food on our table. With you, we remain steadfast to transforming the agriculture industry so that:
- No farm worker has to sleep 12 people to a trailer that has no ventilation.
- No farm worker dies from working in 100 degree heat without water or shade breaks.
- No farm worker suffers the horrible effects of being sprayed with toxic pesticides.
- No farm worker is cheated, paid for 48 sacks of oranges when they picked 53.
- No farm worker has to be silent in the face of abuse or risk being fired or deported.
We commit to saying "Yes" when farm workers ask for our help. We commit to engaging a new generation in this struggle. We commit to providing you with education and action opportunities so that together, we reach the day when each meal we sit down to is a meal we can eat with a clear conscience.
In celebration of 40 years of national work, our goal is to raise $40,000 in additional income. We recently learned about an exciting opportunity to have $5,000 of this appeal matched dollor-for-dollar by a new granting source. That means your anniversary gift is doubled - your $50 gift becomes $100 or your $100 gift becomes $200. Each donor to our anniversary campaign will receive an NFWM magnet in appreciation!
Click here to contribute online using our new secure donation system!
Felix Garza, President
Virgnia Nesmith, Executive Director