FUERZA Fund and Sunrise Dartmouth raise money for Upper Valley migrant farmworkers

by Griselda Chavez | 2/11/21 2:00am

dairy-farm-in-vermont-photo-by-gabriel-onate
Source: Gabriel Onate / Courtesy of Maria Clara De Greiff

Environmental advocacy group Sunrise Dartmouth and the FUERZA Farmworkers’ Fund have collaborated to raise over $1,600 for migrant farmworkers in the Upper Valley. The week-and-a-half-long fundraising push consisted of events that spotlighted local farmworkers and aimed to educate Dartmouth students on migrant labor in New Hampshire and Vermont. 

The money raised will serve as “direct” financial aid for farmworkers, according to Solange Acosta-Rodriguez ’24, a member of Sunrise Dartmouth and the Sunrise coordinator of the FUERZA Fund collaboration. She noted that the fundraising push aimed to raise money specifically for medical appointments since they are “super expensive, and a lot of the farmworkers are uninsured or underinsured.”

Fundraising efforts began on Feb. 1 with an “Instagram takeover” featuring the FUERZA Fund team on the Sunrise Dartmouth Instagram page. Subsequent initiatives included an Instagram feature highlighting women working on farms in the Upper Valley, a “Hands That Speak” discussion featuring professors, students and farmworkers and a collaboration with the Dartmouth Student Union’s “Freedom School.” The FUERZA Fund team also distributed “support farmworkers” stickers throughout the week.

FUERZA Fund team member Juan Quinonez Zepeda ’22 noted that while FUERZA is a campus organization centered on migrant outreach that is looking to become affiliated with the College, the FUERZA Farmworkers’ Fund is a separate entity created at the beginning of the pandemic specifically to provide farm workers with monetary aid. Quinonez Zepeda said that he and the other members of the team noticed that amid discussions on essential workers in the U.S., farmworkers locally and elsewhere “were being left out of that conversation.” 

Months later, according to Acosta-Rodriguez, Sunrise Dartmouth’s executive board presented a possible collaboration with the FUERZA Farmworkers’ Fund to Sunrise members as part of their winter term programming. Acosta-Rodriguez said she decided to focus on the fundraiser. 

Fatema Begum ’22, a member of Sunrise Dartmouth, noted that Sunrise’s goal in the collaboration was “to increase more awareness about the individuals who do migrant labor in the Upper Valley” and “uplift their voices,” which aligns with the organization’s overall goal of pursuing climate justice. She added that a number of other organizations — including the Dartmouth Student Union, the Nathan Smith Society and the Sustainability Office — helped promote the events and fundraising efforts.

Spanish professor Maria Clara De Greiff, a member of the FUERZA Farmworkers’ Fund team, described the “Hands That Speak” event as an opportunity for the FUERZA Fund team to share farmworkers’ stories. The event featured Spanish and writing professor Douglas Moody, the three students from the FUERZA Fund’s team and two dairy farmworkers, along with De Greiff. According to De Greiff, approximately 30 people attended the panel. 

Don Paco, a farmworker and one of the guest speakers in the panel, mentioned that he enjoyed being a part of the discussion because it allowed farmworkers “to communicate with the community directly.” 

“If we were to visualize a pyramid, [the farmworkers] would be at the base of the pyramid, and no one knows, and now people are starting to recognize us because our voices and hands that work for them are being acknowledged,” he said. 

Although there are no more official events or collaborations planned, Quinonez Zepeda commented that the FUERZA Fund team is “always working” and will be spending time on distributing the funds that they were able to raise. 

On Sunrise Dartmouth’s Instagram page, the most-liked post from the fundraising push is a graphic reading “Cabot Exploits Farmworkers,” referencing Cabot cheese, a popular snack among Dartmouth students. The post left students like Katie Forman ’21 interested in finding alternatives. Forman mentioned it “hurt [her] soul” to see the exploitation of the farmworkers, and she is now trying to spend the least amount of money on Cabot possible as she does more research. 

The “Hands That Speak” panel evoked similar questions on ethical food production. Keren Valenzuela Bermúdez ’21, another team member from the FUERZA Fund team, stated that it was “almost impossible” to disconnect yourself from the system of exploitation and stressed the importance of “supporting the local hands that actually produce the products.”

“While we may be a bit more silent on social media while we work to redistribute funds, need is never [lacking],” Valenzuela Bermúdez added.

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