A Growing Culture (AGC), a global coalition working to build farmer autonomy, recently revealed its mural, Unveiling America. Located on Beacon Village Farm in North Carolina, the mural aims to celebrate the importance of immigrant farm workers in the United States and unite rural and urban communities.
Today, immigrants make up 73 percent of farm workers in the U.S. But, recent actions taken by the federal government, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids could jeopardize the livelihood of these workers. “With this current administration and the tension and hostility towards immigrant communities, we wanted a way to build pride around immigrant culture within our food system in rural America,” Loren Cardeli, the founder and president of A Growing Culture, tells Food Tank.
The idea for the mural, which depicts an immigrant farm worker picking produce, emerged from a conversation between Cardeli and artist Edwin David Sepulveda. “We were looking for untraditional ways to communicate with murals, which are typically an urban art form,” Cardeli explains. They decided to bring the project to life at the rural Beacon Village Farm, owned by Mikey and Danielle Hutchison.
The mural offers a twist to the barn quilt that traditionally adorn barns in the Appalachian area. Many American farm owners decorate their barns with a stitched pattern to honor a family member but Hutchison, a second-generation farmer, felt limited by this common practice. “I was having a hard time essentializing my chaotic, wild, and beautiful view to a… square piece of wood. [The mural is] big and bold and beautiful… it has some joy, love, and power to it.”
Sepulveda and Cardeli say they plan to create 10 more murals across the U.S. to honor the work of immigrant farm workers. They hope that this larger project will bring urban and rural communities together around the topic of immigration.
Research suggests that the agriculture sector contributes to the development of rural communities. Despite this, a 2017 survey conducted by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, found that rural residents were three times more likely to believe that immigrants negatively affect the U.S.. Cardeli believes the murals can help to counteract the beliefs that immigrants commit dangerous crimes and steal jobs from Americans.
Cardeli and Sepulveda also hope to highlight the few protections that exist for immigrant farm workers. Although immigrant farm workers engage in demanding physical labor outdoors, few regulations provide workers water or shade breaks or healthcare. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to this failing. As farm workers go without proper protection, they remain susceptible to contracting and spreading the virus. Some hope, however, that the recognition of farm workers as essential employees could incentivize a change in safety protocols.
“By peeling away the onion layers of our food system and [we are] addressing something that is so foundational to America’s success story, which is the story of immigrant workers,” says Cardeli. “Unveiling America was a way to unveil the history of American rural landscapes to tell and celebrate the full and true story behind America.”
Photo Courtesy of A Growing Culture