A local farmers’ market benefits the entire food system. In this interview, we talk with Carlos Marentes, Director of the Border Agricultoral Workers Project and a leader in the global movement for food sovereignty.
Good afternoon. What is your name and occupation?
My name is Carlos Marentes, I am the Director of the Border Agricultural Workers Project, here in Segundo Barrio.
Mr. Marentes, why is it important to support local farmers?
Well, it’s important because the local production is the life of the community, what gets produced benefits community residents, the bounty from the production stays locally, and because that type of production is designed to meet the needs of the local population. I think that’s why it’s important to have a local production, to have a community of farm workers producing food to satisfy the needs of the community.
For the farmers’ market, La Mujer Obrera is working with farms that are 50 acres or less and that are localed within a 100-mile radius of El Paso. Is there a benefit for the farm worker if people buy from local, small farms versus large, industrial farms?
Well, the benefit is that we know where our food comes from, that’s very impotant, we can know about the production practices. Local production is not based so much on farm worker exploitation, the way large-scale commercial production is. So in our view it is better if the community relies on local, regional producers for their nourishment. When we depend on food that comes from other cities, from other countries, we are subject to a dependence that is not very secure. When production is local, done on a small scale and when the community can have a say about the production, how it’s done, how it should be done, that prevents not only exploitation but also the breakdown of the community, of life in the community, of nature, of the environment.
Some have suggested to the women that it would be more lucrative to have a farmers’ market in another part of town. Why is it important that this type of effort happen in low-income communities in El Paso?
Because these are the communities where there are not many places to buy healthy foods at good prices. The large stores, the supermarkets are mainly located in middle class neighborhoods, very far away and inaccessible for the workers, from low income homes. This is where there is a big need, where we need these type of initiatives, to bring food in the right quantity, quality, and affordability so that it truly benefits the community.
Is there anything else you would like to say about why it’s important to support a local farmers’ market?
Well, markets where food is sold, where agricultural products are sold, are part of our cultural life. Since the time of the Aztecs, since the time of the Mayas, we had those markets, and people could acquire their food there, not only the food to feed their families, but also for cultural, religious activities. For example, during Holy Week we don’t eat the same things we eat during the rest of the year. So, it’s also a rescuing of our cultural, indigenous, historical origins. And on top of that, it is an alternative to the supermarket, which sells food not so much with the intention of creating community health, but with the intention of making profits, and they sell a type of food that has become a threat to the health of our sons and our daughters. So that is why it is important that we all participate in the rescuing of the concept of a community market, a market with local products, a market with healthy products, and also foods that we want to eat, not foods imposed on us by the supermarket.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you all.