Cooperative Urban Farming in Kentucky, Inspired By Latin America

migrant workers kentucky cooperative photoThe Perennial Plate/Video screen capture

If you look into the American food system in any depth, chances are you will come across the stories of immigrants. Low paid farm hands struggling with exploitation is, of course, the most commonly told story. But The beautiful videos emerging from the Perennial Plate road trip have also shown us a broader, diverse representation of the immigrant experience in the food system.

From a Burundian refugee farming goats in Kentucky, through Vietnamese shrimp fishermen in the Gulf to Bhutanese community gardeners in Atlanta, all across the country immigrants are bringing their skills, their knowledge, their work ethic and their cultivation techniques (and crops) and putting them to work in their new homes—enriching our collective food culture in the process.

Here we visit with Nelson Escobar, an immigrant from El Salvador who has brought traditional Latin American models of cooperative working and applied them to urban agriculture in Kentucky where he now resides. The result is a 15 acre urban farm which is operated collectively, with each farm worker taking responsibility for 2 to 3 acres, and then sharing together the fruits of their labors.

It's impressive stuff. Not least, as one farmer explains, because of the significant challenge to the ego that cooperative working necessarily represents.

Cooperative Urban Farming in Kentucky, Inspired By Latin America
The cooperative tradition dates back centuries in many Latin American countries. Now migrants are applying its principles to urban farming in the United States.

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