“Agriculture in California”


Farm workers in a field use short handled hoes to harvest crops, location unknown.

Courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

As the Delano grape strike continued in 1966, many of the workers and some of the growers looked for answers (or, in the case of many of the growers, silence) from the local Catholic dioceses. The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) had so far been deprived of support for the strike by the Church, with only a small number of clergy lending their help independently.

The dioceses of California prepared and released a lengthy statement by the eight Catholic Rural Life Directors in the state that appeared to say much without taking any direct stand.  The directors laboriously commented on the plight of “commercial family farms,” which they defined as those “where the owner-operator lives on or near his farm …. who manages the farm himself, does most of the work himself with additional help in season.” The directors held this type of farm up as a model of virtue that they supported by statements from Pope John XXIII, and lamented that many economic factors were conspiring against this “ideal structure in our civilization.”

AG in Cali.pdf

"Agriculture in California"
Courtesy of ACUA

The statement recommended a minimum wage law, re-negotiation of trade agreements, new subsidies, the formation of housing authorities, and other suggestions to help the farm. The glaring oversight in these recommendations is how to help laborers, though the statement spends its last pages discussing their hardships. There is recognition that workers have a right and need to organize, that the National Labor Relations Act should be extended to farm laborers, and that they should also be covered under the national minimum wage.



1. Why do the directors spend more time discussion the plights of the commercial family farmer than that of the laborer?

2. What seemed to be the overall tone of this article in relation to farm workers?