Farm Labor Exposé Earns 2013 James Beard Award

“As Common as Dirt,” a hard-hitting report about farm workers produced by the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN), has received top journalism honors.
By Kale Roberts
October/November 2013
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The farm laborers who harvested your produce may have been victim to the institutionalized wage theft that’s still rampant in the industrial food system.
Photo By Fotolia/nick barounis


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Industrial agriculture’s exploitation of farm laborers certainly didn’t end in the era of the United Farm Workers union (1960s). It unfortunately continues today, with routine abuses often buried beneath media reports of only the most egregious violations.

Tracie McMillan’s article “As Common as Dirt,” published in the September 2012 issue of The American Prospect, recently won the 2013 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in the “Food, Policy and Environment” category for McMillan’s reporting on the institutionalized wage theft and poor accountability that are ag industry norms. The James Beard Foundation Awards cover all aspects of the food industry and represent the highest honor for food journalism. “As Common as Dirt” was produced by the independent, nonprofit Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) in collaboration with The American Prospect. FERN’s article is about more than winning back wages for our nation’s farmworkers — it’s also, as McMillan writes, “about challenging the broader culture of abuse in their workplace.” Read the full piece at The American Prospect.


Kale Roberts is an assistant editor of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. His interests include renewable energy, real food and sustainable rural development. You can find him on .








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