PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) as an organization tackles many issues. They aim to protect and ensure the rights of the Latinx farmworker community. They do this through their myriad programs such as the Healthy Workplaces program which educates farmworkers about safe practices, raid resistance, as well as monitoring pesticide use. PCUN is also powerful in its dedication to their community in its use of Spanish. From their website, publications, to Radio Movimiento, PCUN creates a safe space for their community with their use of language. Our group became interested in what role language might play in PCUN’s work and the ways that they engage.
Our group proposes working with PCUN to create a new program, a language exchange program that would allow farmworkers, farm owners, PCUN members and families, and students to interact with one another on a regular basis. Though we have not been able to communicate much with PCUN in order to ask them what they would like to see from an engagement project, we believe that this program will be a beneficial addition to all of the work that they already do. On the surface, the issue involved is any potential language barrier that farmworkers might face. Instead of language being something that divides them from the greater agriculture community such as farm owners, this program would allow for greater dialogue between Latinx community, the greater agricultural community, and students.
As our team has been building upon our knowledge of PCUN, we have discovered just how complex their range of projects and organizations are. One of the things that continues to come up in our ongoing research and reflection from their reconnaissance trip presentation is PCUN’s and the Oregon Farm Bureau’s potentially opposing stances on pesticides. We’ve established that PCUN is first and foremost concerned for the health and safety of farmworkers. As part of their Healthy Workplaces program, they document pesticide exposure and even work to ban and control the use of certain pesticides. The Oregon Farm Bureau, while no doubt also concerned with the health of farmworkers, does seem to make its priority farm owners. On our visit to Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, OFB president Barb Iverson explained how banning certain pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, which combat invasive species like the spotted lanternfly that could be potentially detrimental for farm owners. The Oregon Farm Bureau seems to look at this issue from the perspective of farm owners, who may need to use pesticides just to keep their farms. Farms going out of business means jobs lost all around the board, but at what cost to the health and safety of those exposed to dangerous chemicals? Pesticides would be a central theme to the language exchange meetings. So, not only would farmers learn to better communicate with farmworkers, but they would be building a longer dialogue about each of their motives behind using vs. banning pesticides. By facilitating this dialogue, we hope not only to have both “sides” of this issue feel heard and understood, but also begin tackling the reasons and pressures farmers have for using pesticides in the first place. Pesticides could potentially just be the theme for the first months or year of the program, eventually moving on to other food systems issues such as GMOs and other practices.