Giving a Voice to Those Who Sustain Us: Reflections on Field & Base Building through SoPL

By Irene Ruiz and Alejandra Hernandez, members of HEAL’s 2023 cohort and the Idaho Justice for Farmworkers team

As the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils (IORC) was working on our Farmworker Justice Campaign, we felt like something was missing. 

We needed more insight on the direction we were going and realized that what we really needed was more training and resources – which we have not been able to find in many other spaces. It’s hard to find places, especially in Idaho, that provide leadership trainings that are diverse and inclusive. But the HEAL Food Alliance’s School of Political Leadership (SoPL) was different!  Being BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) organizers, especially when it comes to organizing farm workers, we knew that program – which supports primarily BIPOC leaders working on the frontlines to develop solutions-oriented, food and farm justice campaigns that center racial, economic, and environmental justice – would be a perfect fit for us. This is one of the reasons we decided to apply for SoPL. By engaging with new tools and honing the skills we already have, we knew we would gain valuable experience. SoPL will be instrumental in helping us focus and perfect our campaign plan, and we’ve been so honored to be in a cohort of amazing organizers who are striving for change in their communities!    

Alejandra and Irene at an event by StoryFort called “The Power of Our Roots: From the Field to the Stage.” They present their stories as former farmworkers who now do advocacy work for farmworkers in Idaho. Photo by Guy Hand

Through the School of Political Leadership, we have been able to focus on base building, the most important part of our campaign. At the start of SoPL, we had huge campaign implementation plans. However, as we moved through each session, we came to the realization that without our base of farm workers, it would be hard to even start this campaign. It felt great to be able to put things more in perspective and to have our sole focus for this year of our campaign be to build our base and to involve more allies. The Values Triangle,* which we learned about in our base-building session, really put into perspective our actual needs and because of this we now have a good foot forward in protecting and supporting farm workers through heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation, and pesticide poisoning. We can take these tools back to our Farm Worker Justice Campaign Team and not feel that we have to start from scratch. We will be able provide a diverse and more inclusive lens that is crucial in organizing farmworking communities. 

We at IORC are feeling more confident in being able to support farm workers through climate change in Idaho and because of SoPL, we have new tools that we can use to organize our base and allies. We are hoping in the coming months to use our one-on-ones to build our storytelling project with farmworkers, being able to have workshops and trainings for our membership base, and to start looking into our political landscape once we start working on policy. IORC wants to thank the HEAL Food Alliance for this tremendous opportunity with SoPL. This process will help implement our Farmworker Justice Campaign that will hopefully change the narrative of farm workers that will humanize and give a voice to those who feed and sustain us. Farm workers deserve to be protected and treated with respect and IORC will support this community in every way possible. 

*The values triangle is a tool that helps the organization define what relationships we want to have with opponents and allies in order to ensure we are centering those who we are organizing.


About Irene
Irene is a Co-Director of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils. She also staffs Visión 2C Resource Council, Idaho’s only Latinx chapter in Canyon County working on environmental issues. Irene also co-founded and organizes a coalition of 11 non – profit organizations to support the Latinx, immigrant, and farm working community called the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance that is fiscally sponsored by IORC. She is on the Indigenous Idaho Alliance, ACLU of Idaho, and Stay at School Quince boards. Irene Ruiz is the daughter of Mexican Immigrants, she grew up in Hazelton, ID where she also worked in the fields with her family. She received her Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Boise State University. Irene currently lives in Boise, ID.
About Alejandra
Alejandra Hernandez is the daughter of Mexican farmworkers from Nayarit, Mexico. She is a co-creator of the social media page, Latinx Farmworkers of Southern Idaho, a photo blog that features local Idaho farmworkers. Alejandra’s first job was at 13 years old, picking asparagus on her neighbor’s farm. Throughout her teenage years, she worked weeding out a variety of crops on neighboring farms during the summer. After she graduated from the University of Idaho, Alejandra became the Migrant Paraeducator at her local Junior High and supported students who also come from a farm- working background. Alejandra hopes to continue to support farmworkers through her social media page by sharing their stories and by building relationships between workers and health workers, community leaders, and decision-makers.