Hernandez last worked at a corporate agriculture farm in 2008 as a contracted farmer. That year, he was ordered to work in the fields in the middle of winter, with snow on the ground. He got frostbite on his feet after hours of pruning and spent seven months in the hospital as a result. Eventually, he had parts of his feet surgically removed. He now uses prosthetics and walks with a cane.
“If they’d listened to me at first, it wouldn’t have happened,” Hernandez says. “That’s what happens [in a corporate farm].”
But he co-owns the land he farms now — 65 acres of it, although only 30 acres are currently in use. Torres, 35, and Hernandez, 43, founded the organic berry farm Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad (Land and Liberty Cooperative) together after leaving jobs on corporate farms. Both had spent years farming for big companies and had grown disenchanted with it, experiencing unpaid breaks, unreliable pay (often paid by the pound rather than the hour) and a lack of flexibility that made it difficult to tend to needs outside of work.