Supplies of berries are very limited. But our Ends mandate that we provide a retail store that satisfies customers, and so... we are turning to Driscoll to help us reliably source fresh raspberries, strawberries, and beyond. Driscoll contracts with hundreds of independent farms from Chile to Canada (which means their supply and reliability is wonderful), but two of those farms have recently been the subject of worker strikes and boycotts. Plenty of co-ops have chosen to boycott Driscoll. Although we avoided carrying Driscoll berries in 2015, the Davis Food Co-op does not have a formal boycott in place. And we need good berries! We echo this sentiment from the Willy Street Co-op in worker-sensitive Madison, Wisconsin:
“Because Driscoll’s is the largest producer of organic strawberries in the world, we have and will continue to source Driscoll’s brand organic berries when we are unable to find a viable alternative. Given the disputes in Mexico and Washington state, we will do our utmost to source Driscoll’s organic strawberries from California whenever possible until the labor disputes have been settled in a way that is satisfactory to the workers." (Read more, here.)
Much of the current information about poor working conditions on the two farms in question is rehashed from old material. The Driscoll company has made statements of support for workers, and positive steps seem to have been taken to correct wrongs. What has not happened (and what appears to be a compelling driving force behind continuing calls for a boycott), is the recognition by Driscoll of a labor union called Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice). "Like with many things, the issues here are complex," writes DFC Interim General Manager, Steve Kobs. "I think most people in Davis would consider the living conditions and wages of Mexican and migrant farm workers to be unsatisfactory. It is hard to imagine that unionization would entirely solve or address those conditions." Driscoll, which purchases berries from many, many different farms, is a large target. But worker conditions are a pervasive human rights issue—one that is understandably of great concern to our Member-Owners.
Where does that leave you? (Hopefully) standing in front of delicious-looking berries, able to make a better purchasing decision. We will continue to strive to be a reliable source of berries, and will carry Driscoll’s when we are unable to find an adequate alternative. We will source the very best of Driscoll whenever possible. And like Willy Street, we encourage you to consider avoiding the global food supply entirely. Local strawberries may be in short and seasonal supply, but freezing those little gems is a wonderful gift to your future self.