Art: Nat Damm
Farmer, Swanton Berry Farm
Despite what many consumers may think, organic rules don’t ensure fair treatment of workers—and tight profit margins mean that working conditions and pay on organic farms are too often no different from those in conventional operations. But Jim Cochran, 62, who launched California’s first organic strawberry farm in 1987, refused to accept the established norms. In 1998, he became the first organic grower to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers union—and he approached them. Then, in 2005, Cochran rolled out what might be the nation’s first stock-ownership plan for farm employees; workers begin earning stock in the operation after putting in 500 hours. “The dignity of farm labor is a founding principle of Swanton Berry Farm,” Cochran says. If the farm’s crowded stands at Bay Area farmers markets are any indication, it is possible to protect the earth, treat workers well, and make a profit at the same time.