CATA – The Farmworker Support Committee is a membership-based immigrant advocacy organization that was founded by farmworkers in New Jersey in 1979. CATA’s mission is to empower and educate Latino immigrant farmworkers and low-wage workers through leadership development and capacity building so that they can fight for safe, fair, and just living and working conditions. As a membership-based organization, all CATA members have a voice and a vote in the decision-making of the organization.
CATA’s main office is located in Glassboro, NJ with other offices in Bridgeton, NJ, as well as in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The principal work of the organization is to educate and organize workers and their communities so they can stand up for themselves and fight for their rights as workers, immigrants, and human beings. CATA focuses on issues of workers’ rights, health and safety in the workplace, immigrant rights, and food justice. CATA is a migrant worker advocacy organization with a special focus on supporting and working with the immigrant farmworker community. It is inherent in the organization to address issues of food justice, environmental justice, and agriculture as it is woven through almost everything they do.
Agriculture is an important industry in New Jersey. Farmworkers in New Jersey live in farm labor camps that can be fairly isolated. Farmworkers toil long hours in the fields, planting, caring for, and harvesting our food. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous jobs with high accident and mortality rates. Farmworkers are exempt from the protections of several national labor laws and can have many health problems due to pesticide exposure, heat stress, and tough physical demands of the work.
CATA offers many training sessions to workers on pesticide safety, heatstroke safety, workers’ rights, and HIV education and prevention. They also focus on advocacy efforts that support the immigrant community and immigrant workers. CATA’s work on food justice includes education on the dangers of pesticide use to workers and the environment and promoting the principles of agroecology as an alternative to conventional agriculture that promotes a more holistic approach to agriculture, respecting both the land and the people that work it.
Another part of CATA’s food justice work is community gardens. CATA has established 3 organic community gardens in low-income communities where community members have a space to grow organic, culturally appropriate fruits, vegetables, and herbs they may normally not have access to. Another part of CATA’s food justice work is focused on learning about herbal medicine and natural remedies. Many of CATA’s members have strong ancestral knowledge of natural remedies that they have been sharing with their communities. CATA has also led activities to identify native and wild plants in New Jersey that have medicinal properties and how to use them.
You can learn more about CATA’s work to empower farmworkers, bring health and safety to the workplace, and fight for food justice by exploring their website, cata-farmworkers.org. To keep updated on the latest news and events from CATA, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.