The culinarian food culture in the U.S. now takes the quality of its food seriously, buying organic, local, and seasonal food, while celebrating the artisanal methods of growing it and preparing it. Consumers want to know where their food comes from.
But despite all that attention to food sources, the laborers who grow, pick, and package our food are still under the radar, toiling away for low wages in substandard working conditions.
This interview with Seth Holmes, a professor of health and social behavior at UC Berkeley, and author of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, brings to light many of the issues about our food supply that Americans tend to ignore. Says Holmes:
We talk so little about the people who do the work that gives us the fresh fruit and vegetables that we want. Farmworkers are pretty hidden, and there’s a concept from Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher, called bad faith, meaning self-deception. My simplified version of that is that we consciously hide from ourselves the difficult realities of the workers. We somewhat know them, but we don’t think about them much. In that way it seems like ‘communal bad faith.’ “
Holmes spent 2 summers living and working with farm workers, and his tale should make us ashamed that our zeal to save a few dollars immiserates so many people. We are willing to pay top dollar to protect our bodies from pesticides and pathogens while allowing theirs to be destroyed.