I’m writing in response to your June 13th feature on local farms that have opened their U-pick crops for the summer. This is an excellent resource for Whatcom County residents who care about where their produce comes from; in fact, in light of labor injustices in Skagit Valley, picking your own berries is the only way to be certain that they were harvested fairly and sustainably.
In 2013, workers at Sakuma Brothers Berry Farm in Burlington — a grower that sells millions of dollar’s worth of berries annually to major brands like Driscoll’s — went on strike repeatedly and formed the union Familias Unidas por la Justicia in order to fight for their rights. This was the culmination of a decade of recurring labor disputes at the farm, where I believe workers have endured systematic wage theft, poor housing conditions, racist harassment from supervisors and more. Familias Unidas por la Justicia wants to negotiate a legally binding union contract with Sakuma in order to secure a fair wage and protection of their human rights.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia’s work has won crucial legal victories and I believe gathered broad public support. However, local farm workers continue to face exploitation. Until the rights of the families who grow our food are contractually protected, we cannot know that the berries we buy were farmed humanely. As you enjoy visiting U-pick farms this summer, please consider local farm workers and their ongoing fight for justice.