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What’s In A Strawberry? Poverty and Racism

Michael Valiant/Flickr

There’s nothing like sitting down at the table with a bowl of fresh berries from the store. Rinse them, maybe sprinkle a bit of sugar on top, and enjoy. Sweet and healthy.

What’s not to like?

Seldom do we consider where the berries come from. That’s where medical anthropologist Seth Holmes comes in.

A doctor and Assistant Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Holmes spent months traveling and living with migrant farmworkers from Oaxaca, Mexico. He accompanied them across the desert border, all the way to farms in the Skagit Valley just an hour north of Seattle where they work bent over in the fields in harsh conditions – living in labor camp shacks, earning minimum wage or less, subject to racist taunts, and barred from promotions despite years of farm experience. His new book about all of this is called Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies.

And as we discuss in this conversation, the issues go full circle. While demand increases for organic food here at home, farmworkers are forced off their own farms in Mexico (which resemble the idyllic, nature-friendly farms we like to imagine) and migrate to the the United States because of our own economic policies, namely free trade agreements like NAFTA, which have flooded their country with subsidized American corn.

Do we, as a society, care about the people working speedily and skillfully to harvest our food – the very stuff that gives us life? The answer seems to be no. But with this book and other efforts to challenge the status quo, that all could be changing. Listen to learn how.

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About Author

Ansel Herz

Ansel Herz is a freelance multimedia journalist whose objective is to “go to where the silence is." His work has been published by ABC News, The Nation magazine, the New York Daily News, Al Jazeera English, Free Speech Radio News, Inter-Press News and many other publications. A Seattle native and survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Ansel is producer of Humanosphere's podcast, among other things. You can contact him at ansel.herz[at] or follow him on Twitter @Ansel.