The Other Strawberry Festival: Stories of People, Land, and Resistance virtual event on Sunday, May 23, 2021, was a place for conversations about the impact of pesticide use and racial injustice in conventional monoculture strawberry-growing, and brought together community members to create change toward a more-just food system for people and the planet.

More than 50 attendees explored issues of food injustice and possible solutions through this event, presented in English and Spanish as part of the Encampment for Citizenship (EFC) Social Justice in Action Series and a collaboration with the EFC’s Pesticide-Free Soil Project (PFSP), Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project’s Tequio Youth Group and the Abundant Table. The event showcased indigenous youth organizers, community leaders in environmental justice and young poets writing about food justice.

A panel of young people spoke powerfully about how the strawberry-growing industry directly affects their families and communities, many of whom are indigenous Mixtec farmworkers living in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California. They answered questions and spoke about their families and communities’ traditional agricultural practices and expertise, which contrast greatly with the conventional strawberry-growing industry’s approach.

A solutions-focused discussion brought together community leaders of the Central Coast region of California, including representatives from the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP). MICOP leaders Dalia Garcia and Juvenal Solano spoke about cultural identity, healthy food access and barriers, and labor rights for farmworkers. A resounding message from Juvenal, in regard to the meager compensation and rights of farmworkers, was, “Even though it is legal doesn’t mean it’s just.”

Linda Quiquivix of the Abundant Table spoke about the inherent connections between slavery, colonization and today’s farmworker system. Matthew Vestuto, of the Ventureno/Barbareno band of Chumash, shared a land acknowledgment and talked about the language revitalization work he is part of through Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival. Alice Linsmier of the Equitable Food Initiative talked about new structures they are experimenting with on farms to help move toward more-just strawberry-growing practices. Finally, the PFSP’s Florencia Ramirez spoke about how her hopes for a Central Coast region (and the world) that values human and ecological health, with food systems that care for our streams, our soils and our people.

A final highlight was hearing three beautiful poems by youth about food justice, performed live and part of a contest for youth to produce creative work on these topics, with prizes from Patagonia. Pesticide-Free Soil Project interns are compiling a zine (a type of online DIY magazine) with these poems, artwork and information they’ve learned about the strawberry industry. The contest and festival will be held annually to raise visibility for stories about food system injustice and imagining new possibilities for a more-just food system.

View the Zoom recording of the Other Strawberry Festival.