Eva Longoria Wants You to Know Farmers and Farmworkers Have Always Been Essential
The US farm economy is in a crisis, but that's no surprise to Eva Longoria. According to federal data, an estimated 580 farmers filed for chapter 12 bankruptcy protection in the 12-month period that ended on June 30, making US farm debt balloon to near-critical mass at more than $425 billion. And that comes after "a yearslong slump in the agricultural economy," per The Wall Street Journal. "I met Dolores Huerta at a very early age," Longoria said, "and got involved with farmworker rights."
Spanning two decades, that involvement has included co-executive producing the 2014 documentary Food Chains about the harsh realities that migrant farmworkers face to this day. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security deemed farmworkers "essential" and "critical to the food supply chain" in March. Despite initial fears that deportation would ensue for the largely undocumented class of migrant workers, they are now relieved of stay-at-home orders. (Which begs the question, why are the "essential" not essential enough to earn green cards?)
Now, Longoria is teaming up with Tillamook County Creamery Association ("They're a co-op," she said, "which means they're farmer-owned and farmer-led") and the not-for-profit American Farmland Trust to donate 10 percent of its sales — up to $1.6 million — to bail out endangered farms and farmland. Here, Longoria explains why "All For Farmers" grants are so vital right now.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
POPSUGAR: American agriculture is in a rough state at the moment. You've partnered with Tillamook and the American Farmland Trust to support a new initiative and advocate on behalf of farmers and farmworkers: essential workers who are largely Latinx, widely underpaid, and often undocumented. Could you tell me about that work?
"The pandemic has deemed farmers and farmworkers essential, but they've always been essential to the American food supply."
Eva Longoria: You know, I've been advocating for farmers and farmworkers for 20 years, and when Tillamook came to me and said, "We want to do a campaign that really supports this community," I was like, "I'm in." The pandemic has deemed farmers and farmworkers essential, but they've always been essential to the American food supply.
We can never take them for granted because they are literally the people who put food on the table. COVID-19 has put more pressure on farmers across the country: we expect to show up to our grocery stores and see produce and food, and a lot of these farmers don't have the support and infrastructure that they need during this time.
So I was just excited that Tillamook was doing something with the American Farmland Trust to not only raise awareness about the importance of agriculture — because people kind of take it for granted, [that] agriculture is still the backbone of America — but we're also obviously doing it to raise dollars to help save farms and farmland. So I was like, "What do I do? What's the deal, what's the campaign?" And they were like, "Oh nothing, you just eat the Tillamook products." [laughs]
PS: I mean, I love the photos.
EL: Oh, man. Well, I have two videos coming out with recipes, too, so fans can see, "Oh, I'll use that for that." I'm Mexican, so basically everything I cook has cheese. But you know, all these funds that are going to be raised — they're going to give 10 percent of sales this month for a total of up to $1.6 million — they're going to donate it to the American Farmland Trust. So I was like, this is so easy. And when you can do something as a consumer that is something you do anyway? It's a win-win.
PS: You mentioned that you've rallied around issues of farmers and farmworkers for some 20 years. What about the cause has kind of captivated you?
EL: Um, I eat! You know? [laughs]
"Everybody should know where their food comes from — know who plants it, picks it, and produces it — because we have to support this engine of our American economy."
EL: You know, people always say, "Why farmers? Why farmworkers?" Because I eat food. Everybody should know where their food comes from — know who plants it, picks it, and produces it — because we have to support this engine of our American economy. I met Dolores Huerta at a very early age and got involved with farmworker rights. Tillamook has an incredibly old history: they're 111 years old and they're a co-op, which means they're farmer-owned and farmer-led. I think in this day and age when people are concerned with fast fashion and "I don't want to buy that because it doesn't give back, or it's not recyclable material" — people are very aware of what they're buying now. When you see what TOMS Shoes did for the world, and when you think of a company like Tillamook, you go, "Wow, they're farmer-owned, farmer-led, and they want to help farmers across the country." So I think we need to know more about where our food comes from.