Sakuma Brothers: Unique Farm Worker Struggle in Washington State

Sakuma Worker’s Rights Committee. (Photo by Tomás Madrigal)

Burlington is not a very old city center and got its start in 1902 as a logging camp. Today the small town of 8,380, located in the Skagit River watershed north of Seattle, does count with a prosperous fruit and vegetable agricultural industry. Of course, the industry relies on mostly migrant families for farm labor. This is especially the case during harvest work and strawberry crops present an opportunity for workers to seize the current condition of ‘labor scarcity’ and high demand for skilled pickers during harvest time to organize for their workplace rights. And that is exactly what has happened in the State of Washington, and not in the Yakima or Wenatchee valleys but on the western side of the Cascades where peri-urban farming is increasingly big business.
Read more: Sakuma Brothers: Unique Farm Worker Struggle in Washington State

Justice Begins with Seeds

The theme of the conference reflects part of a global social movement response to the enclosure of the biological heritage of humanity by the biotechnology industry – the “Gene Giants” like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta – which seeks to privatize ownership of seeds and make all living things patentable.
Read more: Justice Begins with Seeds

Eating Our Landscape: Pacific Crabapple Tree

Original drawing by Alyssum Quaglia

The Pacific Crabapple tree has been growing in Northwestern North America longer than any other species of ornamental fruit. The Pacific Crabapple tree grows in lifezones ranging from grasslands to foothills. The tree usually grows in moist environments; either in open wetlands or near bodies of water. Native groups from British Columbia all the way down through Cascadia used the Crabapple tree for various purposes.
Read more: Eating Our Landscape: the Ethnobotany of the Pacific Crabapple Tree

GEO Watch: Effort Underway for Labeling Law in Washington State

I-522: Label GMO Foods

A grassroots campaign has been launched in Washington State for the adoption of a labeling law for genetically engineered foods (a.k.a. GMO or transgenic foods). The grassroots initiative seeks support for I-522, which would mandate labeling of transgenic crops or foods containing GMOs. You can read the full text of the proposed initiative below this commentary. The I-522 movement is led by a diverse group of consumer advocates, organic farmers, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and has recruited a wide variety of endorsements from NGOs, municipalities, faith-based groups, farmers and farmer associations, seed savers and exchange groups, plant breeders, and well-known and respected elected officials.
Read more: GEO Watch: Effort Underway for Labeling Law in Washington State

Salal: Food, Medicine and Culture of the Coast Salish Peoples

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Salal, a native shade-tolerant shrub that produces little hairy berries and has a long affiliation with First Peoples as a source of food, medicine, lore, and much more. Sadly, while the salal plant has long been part of the food, medicine, and culture of Coast Salish peoples, the arrival of settlers led to the exploitation of the land, forests, and workers.
Read more: Salal: Food, Medicine and Culture of the Coast Salish Peoples

Salmonberry: Food, Medicine, Culture - Part 2

Image 2_Salmonberry berry

The Chinook believe that when salmonberry was first discovered, the Coyote was instructed to put its berries inside the mouth of every salmon he caught from the river to ensure continued good fishing. This is how the name “Salmonberry” originally came about long ago.
Read more: Salmonberry: Food, Medicine, Culture – Part 2

Salmonberry: Food, Medicine, Culture - Part1

For centuries berries have been used for various reasons within many native tribes in the Pacific Northwest such as the Chehalis, Cowlitz, Lower Chinook, Makah, Quinault, Quileute, Swinomish, and the Iñupiat. Each berry has its own unique history that sometimes can be told through native legends, as seen with the salmonberry. According to storytellers in the Chinook First Nation the coyote was “instructed to place these berries in the mouth of each salmon he caught in order to ensure continued good fishing” and for that reason this berry came to be known as the Salmonberry.
Read more: Salmonberry: Food, Medicine, Culture – Part 1

The Wild Strawberry: a Sacred Purifier

Strawberry Blossoms

The wild strawberry has been recognized and used by indigenous peoples since the dawn of time. Native Americans have valued the wild strawberry as food and medicine, recognizing it as a blood purifier. Native Americans also have a spiritual understanding and relationship with the groundcover plant as illustrated by the Anishinaabe name for the wild strawberry, odeiminidjibik, which translates as “root of the heart” and illustrating the intimacy of the people and this wild berry.
Read more: The Wild Strawberry: a Sacred Purifier

Rebuilding our local food system

This essay by Quita Ortíz on the work of Ralph Vigil and his family to restore traditional food and farming systems in northern New Mexico highlights one of the most significant qualities of acequia agroecosystems, their rootedness and adaptability to place.
Read more: Rebuilding our local food system

Mind Over Matter?

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Environmental justice is also about our state of mind; biophysical and mental wellness are interrelated!
Read more: Mind Over Matter?