I’ve been working in the fields for 30 years. I’ve been in Lamont [CA] that whole time. I also live near the fields and have gotten sick from the pesticides used. It’s made me feel dizzy and nauseous. It’s also made me vomit.

—Maritiza; Lamont, CA

The Importance of Story 

Last Friday, I went out to Lamont, California—east of Bakersfield and south of Delano. There are table grapes as far as the eye can see. There is something very different about seeing grapes on the vine in mass agriculture versus sitting in your bowl at home.
 
I visited Lamont because I've been trying to figure out a way to show you more stories of people who are living in our most underserved and underreported communities. Being an attorney, it has been difficult to share more details on the legal cases I am working on because of attorney/client privilege and confidentiality. I've been racking my brain the last few weeks to figure out a solution to show you more.

And I think I may have one: to supplement my work, I'll be doing a photo essay very similar to Humans of New York where photos will be taken of members in the community and a brief quote to give some insight into their lives: their triumphs and their struggles.

First, I acknowledge that I am a temporary visitor to these communities and want to handle all situations with as much respect and sensitivity as possible. As such, I knew that this arrangement would have to be done through solid organizing and solid people who are integral to the community: thank you to Alejandro Chavez who referred me to Edgar Iván Aguilasocho, who referred me to Erika Navarrete, an awesome UFW organizer who arranged the time for me to talk to some of our friends in the fields. And big kudos to photographers Alex Horvath and Mike Fagans for their amazing photos. 

To check out more photos, please follow me on:

Instagram: attorneyonthemove
Facebook: facebook.com/attorneyonthemove
The full photo essay from California's Central Valley will eventually be posted to: www.attorneyonthemove.com
 


I’ve been working in the fields for 2-3 weeks—I’m just getting used to it. It’s been fun getting to know everyone—they’re nice and friendly; they’ll help you out and tell you what to do if you don’t get it. All you need to do is ask. I plan on doing this until I go back to school and finish my career.

—Christian, 18 years old; Lamont, CA

My daughter, her name is Kat—she’s learning how to do sounds because she’s barely a year and several months. So, she did this cat noise and she did the little claw with it, too. Yeah—she’s smart.

—Danny; Lamont, CA

The longest I’ve ever seen a bathroom go without being cleaned is a week. Also, I’ve seen about 10 farmworkers get heat stroke and sometimes, they are just dismissed from work—and not asked to return.

—Erika, UFW organizer

Before, we didn’t have tables to pack the grapes—we would have to do it on the floor. And the tables we have now are very heavy. It’s difficult work.

Many of the same conditions that led to the 1965 Delano grape strike still affects farmworkers today. Environmental and labor justice need to be waged to protect farmworkers from the harmful side effects of being continuously exposed to pesticides; working long hours in 105+ degree temperatures; and ensuring sanitary and safe working conditions. 

Attorneys are needed more than ever in our country's farmlands to address these issues. During my time in Delano and the Central Valley, I have been able to assist a number of farmworkers with their housing and employment claims—and my eyes have been opened to how big the need is.

I'm sure many of us can relate to some of the moments captured above—and others, such as being exposed to pesticides daily, we may not have to actively worry about.

But one thing is clear: our brothers and sisters who work so hard to harvest food that so many of us eat deserve our attention and respect. They deserve a working and living environment that is safe and just—something we all share the same desire for.