Fresh Food for Farmworkers
Each summer thousands of people migrate seasonally to Washington and Hancock Counties for the annual blueberry harvest. Families and individuals travel from Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and elsewhere to ensure Maine farmers and growers have the labor they need to ensure a successful season. Yet, despite the value they bring to Maine’s economy – over $250 million annually – most seasonal farmworkers have limited access to affordable housing and adequate cooking and food storage facilities.
Each year around the same time hundreds of young people also migrate from all over the U.S. for apprenticeships and other learning opportunities on Maine farms. For some, the experience turns into a desire to live and farm in Maine. Yet too often the dream of farming in Maine is cut short by the same harsh economic reality of farming that, for example, leads to 12 farmworkers living in a single apartment or a four-person motel room with few options for preparing a hot meal. For farmers and farmworkers alike, food production has sadly become a high-investment, low-wage occupation.
Since 2006, Food for Maine’s Future has been grappling with the many inequities in our food system, looking for creative solutions that simultaneously empower and build wealth in rural communities. Last year we started a program to support Maine’s beginning farmers and seasonal farmworkers: Fresh Food for Farmworkers.
The idea is simple: Help beginning farmers find new markets on which to build sustainable small businesses by paying them to produce high-quality food that we in turn use to provide seasonal farmworkers with community meals and CSA-type programs. Every dollar we spend on Fresh Food for Farmworkers has twice the impact on the community by helping meet the needs of two important, yet underserved, groups at the same time. Read more