Report-back: Farm Visit to Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad

In September, CAGJ had the pleasure of visiting the Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad/Land and Liberation Cooperative farm. The farm, founded in 2017 by four members of Washington’s independent farmworker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, is an attempt at creating a workplace where the workers themselves have a direct say in the direction of the farm and implementation of projects. The farm is structured around principles of environmental and social equity, and employs agroecological management practices. The ultimate goal is for the farm to be able to economically sustain the families of the people who work on it, and to provide an alternative food source for the community that is economically accessible, environmentally responsible and culturally appropriate. 

ten people stand outside in front of the entrance to the Cooperative. Half of folks are kneeling and half are standing. Behind them, a big sign features a man wearing a yellow sombrero with the text Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad on the brim.

Pictured: Ramón Torres of FUJ, Heather Day of CAGJ and field trip participants gather in front of the entrance to the Cooperativa.

What started in 2017 as primarily a berry operation has since grown to include chickens, cows, goats, and expanded to new crops including nopales! The nopal is the paddle shaped extremity of the prickly pear cactus, and once cleaned of its thorns can be cooked whole. It is used in traditional Mexican cuisine, where it is grilled whole or cut up and used as a filling or topping in tacos, salads, salsas, etc. The folks at Tierra y Libertad grow the nopales in a greenhouse, and sell them in bunches to members of the community, where they are so popular they are often sold out in advance!

three people bend over a central row of potted nopales cactus inside a greenhouse.

Participants weed the nopales in the 100F degree  greenhouse.

We were so grateful to our host, co-founder and worker-owner Ramón Torres, who is also the president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia. Ramón talked about the founding of Familias Unidas, and how the cooperative grew out of the union organizing, as another way for workers to build community and power. After we got a tour of the farm, we were set up with some work of our own, weeding the nopales in the greenhouse (temperature 100 degrees!) so they will grow big and healthy before their next harvest. While we didn’t get to try any of the delicious vegetables, we were introduced to Ramón’s baby, and left with an abundance of eggs from the farm.

The union and cooperative accept donations for their invaluable work – and you can become a Monthly Sustainer! Donate here.

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