Agrarian Trust

Farm Worker Rights Battle in the Strawberry Fields

From Civil Eats by Steve Holt

For many, a red, ripe strawberry elicits sweet memories of sunshine, summer, and childhood.

Glorietta, a strawberry picker in California, has quite a different relationship with the fruit. Hunched over picking for up to 10 hours a day for a mid-sized commercial grower, Glorietta—who asked that we not use her real name for fear of retaliation—says her body hurts all the time. She says the farm’s foreman constantly berates her and the other farmworkers. And she says the farm often fails to pay her adequately for the hours she works.

Worst of all, the strawberries Glorietta picks are making her sick. As she fills carton after carton, she experiences constant nausea, muscle weakness, and eye irritation from the chemicals sprayed. She says her employer does little to protect its workers from exposure.

In fact, says Glorietta, who has picked strawberries for more than two decades, “When we are sitting down to get our lunch, they are spraying near us when we are eating.”