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The people who harvest our food

(article, Kim Carlson)

Farmworkers in California harvest 50 percent of the produce that people in the United States eat each day. Their role is vital in feeding our country, and yet their work lives might best be described as marginal: Each day they toil long hours for low pay, and afterwards many go "home" to places without cooking or bathing facilities. 

[%image reference-image float=left width=350 caption="One of Rick Nahmias' photos from 'The Migrant Project.'"] 

In 2002, Rick Nahmias, a self-described "burgeoning foodie," was working with Arianna Huffington as a researcher and writer when he signed on for a one-week course at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California. Although none of his fellow students or instructors commented on it, Nahmias says he was constantly aware of the collision of politics and food, "leaving me to ruminate for much of that week about the source of the seemingly endless bounty that surrounded me."

Within a few weeks, Nahmias had left his job and had turned his attention to photography, one of his longtime interests. He began a nine-month project photographing and documenting the lives of farmworkers, an effort that eventually was supported by grants and sponsors. His book, The Migrant Project, featuring 56 photographs, has recently been published; in addition, a website, The Migrant Project, houses a gallery of Nahmias' photos and a schedule of venues where an exhibit, also called "The Migrant Project," will travel.

Here's a slideshow sharing some of Nahmias' work; to view the accompanying captions from the book, roll your cursor over the photographs. To control the slideshow, click on the + or - . 

[%slideshow size=large displayCaption=mouseover pause=8]

Although the situation for farmworkers is often dispiriting, Nahmias is not without optimism. The following excerpt, from his preface to the book, eloquently articulates his hope for the future:

bq.Having traveled the country with The Migrant Project \[exhibit\], I have seen farmworkers enter libraries and museums, many for the first time in their lives, and well up upon encountering the first dignified depictions of their community they have ever seen. They are some of the noblest people on this planet, and I am humbled to have had the chance to act as a creative midwife of sorts in bringing even a few of their stories to the public. Through this whole experience, it has become my emphatic belief that beyond key policy reform, the raising and enforcement of our minimum wage, and other important legislation, first and foremost one thing must take place: an essential shift in the American psyche toward compassionate inclusion of farmworkers as vital parts of our lives and our social and cultural fabric. Only then can we hope to see fundamental and lasting change in their lives.

Rick Nahmias will donate 50 percent of profits from the sale of his book to farmworker non-profits and charities.

reference-image, l

Pitching Melons
Not forgotten
Boy in vineyard
Tomato pickers
The paycheck
Early am grapes