An Exhibit of Photographs of the Silent Heroes of a Pandemic
Silicon Valley, CA (Aug 2021) – For Immediate Release – From August 22nd to August 30th, Photographer Mark Tuschman will be displaying Essential Farmers and Farm Workers at Art Ventures Gallery in Menlo Park. The opening reception is on Saturday August 28th from 4-6 pm and will
feature speakers from Alba, Kitchen Table Advisors and Tera Farm. Tuschman worked for 18 months documenting the contributions of immigrants to our country. After having to take 15 months off during the pandemic, he decided to concentrate on the immigrants that grow our food. Tuschman states, “We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy some of the best organic produce in the country, yet few of us give little thought to the people who grow the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grace our tables. We employ nearly 800,000 agricultural workers in this state, and at least 75% of them are undocumented. All these farmers and farm workers are considered essential workers, yet many of them work and live under the fear of deportation, having no access to any benefits, including healthcare, even though they pay their taxes.”
There is usually at least one person in the family that is undocumented, so families are afraid of using any healthcare or social services, not wanting to bring any unnecessary attention to themselves. Many farmworker’s children get educated and move on from agriculture so there is a constant need for workers. In the past the U.S. had an open border policy where we acknowledged this need for labor. Workers had the freedom to go back and forth from the U.S. to their country of origin, but that program was terminated, so workers are now currently forced to come here undocumented. Compelled to stay here for fear of not being able to leave and return, they are painfully separated from their families in their home countries.
Ninety percent of the people who grow and harvest produce are Hispanic, but they own less than 4% of all farm businesses. As Javier Zamora, a farmer who grows some of the best organic berries you will ever taste, claims there is “something wrong with that.” Jacque Rupp and Mark Tuschman felt it was important to show a true story of the heroic, hardworking people they’ve met, and to reveal their sense of pride and contributions so that people see them as the essential workers that they are. Javier Zamora introduced Tuschman to several programs that helped him become a successful farmer – the Alba project and Kitchen Table Advisors. ALBA (http://albafarmers.org) is a non-profit based in the Salinas Valley.
ALBA instructs low-income farmworkers through land-based training in organic farming, helping them pursue their dreams of farm ownership. Since 2001, ALBA has trained over 500 participants and over 200 have launched farms. Currently, over 35% of all organic farms in Monterey County are affiliated with ALBA. ALBA is fundraising for the installation of a new agricultural well, which is vital to the continued success of the ALBA program. It will cost $700,000. If you are interested in helping and learning more, please contact Nathanat firstname.lastname@example.org
Kitchen Table Advisors (https://www.kitchentableadvisors.org) provides in-depth, personalized business advising to over 80 farmers and ranchers who use organic agricultural practices. The industrialized food system disempowers farmers and ranchers who seek to grow food organically. This leads to higher failure rates for the producers who nourish us — especially minorities, women, and immigrants.
KTA also works to rebuild a marketplace that is more favorable to sustainable, small farms and ranches. According to the USDA, 50% of small farms don’t survive beyond their first five years and, out of the survivors, only 25% make it to 15 years. During the pandemic, it has been increasingly obvious that relying on global supply chains makes us all very vulnerable and we should all be supporting our local organic farmers.
Another group of farmers represented in the exhibit are part of the food box program by the nonprofit Tera Farm https://www.terafarm.org/. Tera Farm helps farmers Maria and Bertha sell their produce directly to consumers through their online platform. Anyone can order a fully customizable box of fresh organic produce for pickup at over 30 locations in the greater SF Bay Area. All proceeds go directly to the farmers. All the farmers represented in the exhibit have been helped by Alba and Kitchen Table Advisors.
Art Ventures Gallery is a fine art gallery in the heart of Silicon Valley, located at 888 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025 Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from noon to 6 pm, Friday and Saturday from 10 am – 6 pm, Sunday and Monday are by appointment.