Introduction to “Who Will Feed Us? The Farm Labour Crisis Meets the Climate Crisis”
2019 was marked by the most dire prognosis about the climate crisis and by the most hopeful movement of young people taking to the streets for climate justice. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clearly named the industrial agricultural system as one of the major contributors to the crisis and a threat to biodiversity on the planet. If taken seriously by governments, this condemnation should result in policies that support small and medium producers, and create more work for young people interested in sustainable farming.
This video asks the question of who will feed us in the future, and in the particular context of North America (or Turtle Island). We consider the reality that much of the food in the north (the U.S. and Canada) is produced by workers in the south (including Mexico).
Like many aging farmers, organic farmer Dianne Kretschmar is facing a farm labour crisis with few young people interested in putting their hands in the soil. She is hoping to pass her farming practice on to her son, Dan, who has a dream of transforming the farm into an agroecology school.
In Mexico, agroecologist Fulvio Gioanetto faces similar obstacles to interesting young people in farming, especially Indigenous youth who are often drawn into salaried work on multinational agribusinesses, working in slave-like conditions. Fulvio has been training his sons to create organic fertilizers and herbicides, to give them specialized skills through a family business that also builds a local economy.
Fulvio’s daughter and son-in-law, Serena and Miguel, are interested in building their own organic farming practice in Mexico, but are constrained by limited resources and a threat of increasing violence in the countryside. So they have followed the pattern of many Mexicans who, like his parents and her grandparents, have migrated north for over a century to work in the U.S. and Canada.
Ironically, while Miguel and Serena are working on Canadian farms to save money to start their own agroecological farm in Mexico, Dan is teaching English in China to save money to start an agroecology school on his mother’s farm in Canada. They are part of a small but growing global labour force, one that is committed to a model of farming that honours the earth, promotes biodiversity, and offers dignified work. Which is what the IPCC, the FAO, and other international bodies are calling for.
There are many questions that arise out of this video: How can the current unsustainable industrial food system be transformed? What policies can support the training of young farmers in agroecological practices? What are the conditions of migrant farm workers in all three countries? How can an exchange between organic farmers like the Legacies collaborators cross-pollinate skills in sustainable production?