Factory Farms

1959, 37 minutes, color, DV

 Factory Farms from the Organizer’s Point of View

Factory FarmsRent or Buy smallCalifornia farm workers caught the attention of Harvey Richards early in his photographic career. Working with unionists and pro-union activists, Harvey toured the central valley of California extensively in 1958 and 1959 photographing conditions of work in dozens of crops, including orchard crops such as citrus and plums, vegetable crops such as tomatoes, lettuce, celery, strawberries, hay, cotton, Lima beans, onions, garlic, and potatoes.  It was a time when the agricultural labor market was dominated by bracero workers brought in from Mexico and paid sub standard wages.  Unions and others were campaigning against bracero labor at the time, making growers nervous about the impending cancellation of the program. Consequently, growers invested in machinery trying to anticipate the increases in labor costs that would follow the ending of the bracero program.  Harvey’s first photographic tours caught this rush into mechanization at a time when hand labor still prevailed in many crops. He later issued The Harversters, a shorter version of Factory Farms.

Factory Farms tells the unique story of California agriculture, a highly capitalized, sophisticated industry with substandard wage rates that keeps its worker force in dire poverty and destitution. The film documents 1959 labor conditions for farm workers and reviews the history of union organizing in California agriculture. The film was produced by Harvey for the United Packinghouse Workers Union.


Factory Farms — 2 Comments

  1. Dear Paul,

    Thank you for the film clip….Factory Farms. I write these words from the bottom of my heart. Again, I am deeply grateful for the great and unselfish humanitarian work achieved by your father Harvey Richards.

    Early on, before the advent Cesar Chavez and the movement to unionize farmworkers , your father recognized the injustice and suffering in the agricultural fields of California. His printed image documented what was then unspoken…but was accepted by many as destiny. Your father saw different. He challenged the status quo.

    Harvey Richards’ good heart, his concern for the disenfranchised…the farmworker….does not go unrecognized or appreciated. I am forever grateful.

    Thank you for your good activism.

    Federico Correa

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