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Workers Rights Center Starts Co-op Farm In Western Massachusetts

Farmer Caroline Pam's booth at the Greenfield Farmers Market, in 2014.
Nancy Eve Cohen
Vegetables for sale at the Greenfield Farmers Market

A group of immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador are starting a cooperatively-run farm on a four-acre hay field that straddles Northampton and Hatfield, Massachusetts. 

The land is owned by the city of Northampton and Kestrel Land Trust.

The seven farmers are members of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, a nonprofit that assists immigrants and low-wage workers in the region.

Gabriella della Croce, an organizer of the project, said when people hear her group's name, they think of restaurant, construction or factory workers. But she said most of its members are farmworkers.

“It's important to not only be challenging difficult working conditions at existing workplaces,” della Croce said, “but also creating alternatives and this is the first step in that direction.”

Many of the people who are starting the farm are employed as farmworkers in the valley, she said, and were subsistence farmers in their home countries.

Della Croce said the long-term vision is for the farm to become a successful worker co-op where the farmers can become their own bosses.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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