Filmmaker: Harvey Richards • Publisher: Estuary Press
Factory Farms tells the unique story of California agriculture, a highly capitalized, sophisticated industry with substandard wage rates that keep its workers in poverty and destitution. The film documents 1959 labor conditions for farm workers, including the bracero system of contract labor from Mexico, and reviews the history of union organizing in California agriculture. The film was produced for the United Packinghouse Workers Association. Working with unionists and pro-union activists, Richards 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, and vegetable crops such as tomatoes, lettuce, celery, strawberries, hay, cotton, lima beans, onions, garlic, and potatoes. It was a time when the domestic 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.