Celebrating Filipino American History Month + CA Farmer & Farmworker Month
octubre 26, 2023
Farmers and farmworkers are the foundation of California’s abundant agricultural sector, and have a profound impact on both our state and the nation. California produces about half of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables, and serves as the country’s sole producer of almonds, artichokes, and more. We are also the country’s leading producer of milk and wine.
CAFB deeply depends on the dedicated farmers and farmworkers who make it possible for us to provide an abundance of fresh and nutritious food to our communities. California is home to between a third to half of the nation’s farmworkers — or about 500,000–800,000 people. It is because of them that it was possible for us to deliver more than 240 million pounds of food to food banks through our Programa de 'Farm to Family' program last year.
California is also home to the nation’s largest population of Filipino Americans.
When many of us think about the 1960s Farmworker Movement in California, one name comes to mind: César Chávez. Countless parks, streets, and schools in California bear his name. Yet, another crucial name is mostly left out: Larry Itliong. Itliong was a Filipino labor leader and organizer who led the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) in Stockton. In 1965, he organized grape farmworkers in Delano, California to go on strike. More than 2,000 Filipino farmworkers participated in what is now known as the Delano Grape Strike.
Itliong then turned to César Chávez, who at the time led the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). He asked Chávez to join him and fellow Filipino farmworkers in the Delano Grape Strike. A year later, the NFWA and AWOC joined forces, and Chávez and Itliong co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. It was then that Chávez became the leader of UFW, and both Chávez and Itliong continued their labor organizing work for decades. The Delano Grape Strike lasted five years and garnered attention and donations from across the country and world, and eventually ended with Delano grape farmers agreeing to increase wages, provide medical insurance, and create safety measures around toxic pesticides.
During this October and always, we would like to honor and celebrate the remarkable contributions of the farmers and farmworkers in our state, including the Filipino workers who risked their livelihoods and safety in order to create a better future for California’s farmworkers — and ultimately, for all of us who enjoy California’s fresh, nutritious produce.