Dean's Book Delves into Florida Fields' Transformation

December 11, 2017

Dean Susan L. Marquis’ book I Am Not a Tractor! How Florida Farmworkers Took on the Fast Food Giants and Won arrives in bookstores around the country this Friday, December 15.

I Am Not a Tractor! celebrates the courage, vision, and creativity of a group of farmworkers and community leaders who have transformed one of the worst agricultural situations in the United States into one of the best.

Marquis highlights past abuses workers suffered in Florida’s tomato fields: toxic pesticide exposure, beatings, sexual assault, rampant wage theft, and even modern-day slavery. She unveils how, even without new legislation, regulation, or government participation, the farmworkers dramatically improved their work conditions.

She credits this success to a diverse group:

  • the immigrants from Mexico, Haiti, and Guatemala who formed the coalition
  • a neuroscience major who takes great pride in the watermelon crew he runs
  • a leading farmer/grower who was once homeless, and
  • a retired New York State judge who volunteered to stuff envelopes and ended up building a groundbreaking institution.

Greg Asbed, one of the co-founders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, recently received a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship. The Coalition is also featured in the Smithsonian Museum of American History’s new exhibit “One Nation/Many Voices.”

Through the Fair Food Program that they developed, fought for, and implemented, these actors changed the lives of more than thirty thousand field workers. And although this effort began in Florida’s tomato fields, the Coalition and the Fair Food Program are providing a model for worker-driven social responsibility that could transform American agriculture, with potential applications to factory labor and even the gig economy.

As Eric Schlosser wrote in his review of the book, “If immigrant farmworkers in Florida can do it, so can other workers throughout the United States—and this fine book shows how.”

Paul C. Light’s review notes, “This is a critically important book for social entrepreneurs, innovators, and change agents. Well written, deeply researched, and an uplifting read. You will not put this book down until you hit the final word.”