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Blaming the Victim?

I was surprised to read the article “Can farmworkers afford the food they grow?” in Breakthroughs (Winter 2007). It is another application of the often-used reactionary ploy of “blame the victim.” Farm workers are not more ignorant than the rest of us who consume the products of their strenuous backbreaking labors.

I have participated in several similar human behavioral and attitudinal surveys and have been interested in farm labor issues since the 1950’s Mexican Bracero programs. Conclusions should not be reported based on sketchy or incomplete returns. Survey data, especially attitudinal responses, should be carefully scrutinized to make certain that they reflect accurately the real situation and are not simply anecdotal in nature.

To accept the validity of the “survey,” what is the implication for the reader but that the unfortunate survey respondents are both intellectually and informationally impaired.

-Masao Matsumoto, ’61 (M.S.) and ’68 (Ph.D), Agricultural and Resource Economics

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Can Farm Workers Afford the Food they Grow?

Christy Getz responds:

Our assessment of farmworker food security in the Central Valley included in-depth surveys with 454 farmworkers. Our goal was to understand how structural vulnerabilities, including eroding wages, seasonal unemployment, and language and cultural barriers, affect farmworkers’ ability to access and afford nutritious, culturally-appropriate food. Our sample is not representative of the entire farmworker population; however, we do attempt to move beyond anecdotal evidence to paint a more complex picture. We found, for example, that 45 percent of the farmworkers in our sample do not have access to sufficient quantities of nutritious, good quality food. We also found that both low income levels and undocumented immigration status are significantly (and independently) correlated with high levels of this food insecurity. We are currently working with stakeholders in the Central Valley to improve farmworkers’ access to affordable and nutritious food.

-Cooperative Extension Specialist Christy Getz

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