Food Systems field trip features local Latinx movements in agriculture and community-led retail business

students are seated in a circle watching a presentationIn June, students in the Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems joined Nathan McClintock’s Feeding The City class on a field trip to learn about the labor side of food justice.

Founded in 1985 and located in the small agricultural town of Woodburn, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) is Oregon’s farm workers union, and represents over 6,000 members. Students are pictured on the right at PCUN's headquarters learning about the organization's history and mission.

The town of Woodburn is 68% Latinx, and this year became the first municipality in Oregon with a Latinx majority on the school board. PSU students joined a large group of high school students from Clackamas for a presentation about PCUN’s history and mission, which include education initiatives, political advocacy for stronger worker protections, and collective bargaining.  

One of PCUN’s most important services is processing immigration papers for the thousands of farm workers Oregon agriculture depends on, and advocating against deportation and detention. The post-election immigration crackdown has hit Woodburn hard, leading to increased wage offers as farmers scramble to meet labor demand for the harvest. In addition to touring the headquarters, including the library and meeting hall, students visited PCUN’s radio station. KPCN-LP Radio Movimiento, “La Voz del Pueblo,” broadcasts in Spanish and indigenous languages of Mexico, with the mission of bringing voices to the air that would “never be heard on commercial Spanish-language radio or by a mass audience.”

Afterwards, students visited the Portland Mercado for lunch and a tour of the indoor-outdoor marketplace, food carts, and communal kitchen workspace. Caitlin Burke, head of Community and Economic Development for Hacienda, described the community’s need for affordable retail and food preparation space, which is why Hacienda CDC developed the Mercado as an incubator for local small business owners and as a hub of Latino culture.

Over lunch from the Tierra del Sol food cart, certificate student Beth Gates reflected on her experience in the program this year and how its challenged her to “think deeply about all of the factors influencing both the global industrial food system and the alternative food movement.” This field trip will hopefully be the first of many to explore how these issues play out in the greater Portland area.

a woman is speaking to a group of students seated outside

Caitlin Burke of Hacienda talks about the innovative vision that became the Portland Mercado.