We condemn the harassment, violent attacks, and most recent murders of those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. We are horrified not only by the recent surge of anti-Asian hate but also the pervasive discrimination that has harmed Asian Americans–including California farmers–for too long.
Asian immigrants played an indispensable if often unsung role in the history of agriculture in California, from planting some of our first vineyards to building the railroads on which fruit and vegetables reached the rest of America to establishing their own farms across the state. All this despite obstacles of oppression around every corner. In 1882 and enduring for decades, misdirected resentment at economic downturns bred racist policies in the form of the Chinese Exclusion Act, barring immigration of the very people who built the infrastructure of the West. State-sanctioned discrimination and even banishment from many rural communities followed. Against all odds, generations of Asian American farmers worked hard to get a foothold in California soil. But in 1942, amid war-fueled bigotry, more than 112,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were forced into the national shame that was internment camps, many taken from the farms they worked so hard to create. And when finally released, many of these farmers were unable to return to their land, facing financial ruin and the specter of yet more discrimination. And in the 1960s, Filipino farm workers joined in solidarity with their Latino peers across the state to form the United Farm Workers, demanding an end to unfair treatment, a fight that persists to this day.
While new generations of immigrants–including new waves of refugees from war-torn South East Asia–have made homes and businesses for themselves on California farms, the violence and xenophobia of the past and present robs families of wealth, land, and a basic sense of security.
Despite the contributions made by the AAPI community, today they collectively own less than 0.1% of American farmland. Racism is and has always been a real threat to this nation, to our food system and to our farms. We stand with our neighbors and against hate.