Food for All: Student Action with Farmworkers Collection

Rolando Rivera, poet, Booneville, N.C., 2001. Photo by Scott Pryor. Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317), Southern Folklife Collection.Rolando Rivera, poet, Booneville, N.C., 2001.

Photo by Scott Pryor. Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317)

Summer is in full swing in North Carolina–blazing hot and consistently moist–and the food coming from our local farms reminds us daily why we love to live in the NC Piedmont. As I considered the deliciousness of a fresh-picked-still-warm-from-the-sun-deep-red tomato from Eco Farm last Saturday, I was also reading about the UNC’s 2015-2017 academic theme, “Food for All: Local and Global Perspectives.”  Eating my tomato sandwich and considering its path from seed to my mouth, my mind drifted to the Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317) in the Southern Folklife Collection.

Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1992 with the mission: “to bring students and farmworkers together to learn about each other’s lives, share resources and skills, improve conditions for farmworkers, and build diverse coalitions working for social change.”

SAF accomplishes this mission in part through the sponsorship of Into the Fields, a ten-week summer internship program for students at North and South Carolina universities, targeted especially to those from families of farmworkers. All interns come with at least a working knowledge of Spanish. They then go on to work full-time in migrant health centers, legal services, education programs, policy agencies, and labor organizing groups in the Carolinas. As a means of reflecting upon their summer’s experience, interns complete documentary projects, collecting oral histories and recording the folklife, art, music, celebrations, and events of farm working communities.Cristina Hernandez and her father, Gonzalo Vitela, at Hernandez’s quinciniera celebration, Smithfield, N.C., June 30, 2001. Photos by Erin Barker. Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317), Southern Folklife Collection.

Cristina Hernandez and her father, Gonzalo Vitela, at Hernandez’s quinciniera celebration, Smithfield, N.C., June 30, 2001. Photos by Erin Barker. Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317), Southern Folklife Collection.

Cristina Hernandez and her father, Gonzalo Vitela, at Hernandez’s quinciniera celebration, Smithfield, N.C., June 30, 2001.

Photos by Erin Barker. Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317)

Some of the images and oral histories conducted by the students are published in yearly collections like Tierra Aculturada (Cultured Ground): A Compilation of Folklife Documentaries by Student Action with Farmworkers Interns, 2001, but a majority of the images and interviews are accessioned into the archival collections. The Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317) is available and open for research. As the campus community delves deeper into the “Food For All” theme in the coming academic year, the lives and stories of farmers and farmworkers in The Wilson Library and the work of organizations like SAF will be central to the conversation. If you would like to see more from the Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317), visit the Southern Folklife Collection at The Wilson Library and for more, visit the Student Action with Farmworkers Records at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University.

Finally, I hope you can find some time in the near future to find a friend (or make a new one), a tomato, sliced bread, and some Duke’s mayo and have yourself a picnic. Remember, tomato season comes but once a year.

Ramiro Sarabia, Jr., member of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, holding “¡Hasta La Victoria!” sign at the Mount Olive Pickle Protest, July 1999. Photo by Lori Fernald Khamala and Mendi Drayton. Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317), Southern Folklife Collection.

Ramiro Sarabia, Jr., member of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, holding “¡Hasta La Victoria!” sign at the Mount Olive Pickle Protest, July 1999.

Photo by Lori Fernald Khamala and Mendi Drayton. Student Action with Farmworkers Collection (20317),