Saint Martin’s student to premiere groundbreaking documentary on migrant farm workers

March 28, 2011

LACEY, WASHINGTON — Jacob Suazo, a student at Saint Martin’s University, will premiere Blood, Sweat and Berries, a full-length documentary he co-produced on the plight of migrant farm workers. The premiere will take place Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m. in Room 110 of Harned Hall on Saint Martin’s Lacey campus, 5300 Pacific Avenue SE, Lacey, Washington. The film viewing is free and open to the public.

The documentary is the culmination of a nearly three-year effort by Suazo to interview and document both farm workers and farm owners in the American West. Suazo worked on the project with University of Portland student Scott Hines, University of Washington student Teresa Javillonar and Tacoma resident Rex Yabut. Suazo is the film’s director.

“The idea came to us from our passion for social justice, especially for immigrant workers in our nation,” says Suazo. “The four of us are frequent mission workers for the Youth Migrant Project in the Skagit Valley. This project aids migrant workers who are from that area.” The Youth Migrant Project, a program of the Archdiocese of Seattle, runs from June through August every year. Volunteers work in daycare centers, visit migrant camps, work in the fields and learn about the lives of the migrant workers.

Suazo says the group initially set out to explore the root of injustices they witnessed against farm workers, but soon realized how little they knew about the agriculture industry. Before filming began, the producers spent nearly a year developing contacts and scouting locations in three states — Washington, Oregon and California. Suazo spent much of his freshman year at Saint Martin’s laying the groundwork for this ambitious project. Filming began in the summer of 2009. “We interviewed consumers, farmers, migrant workers, law officials, community leaders, priests and business owners,” explains Suazo.

The filming took about a month to complete. The filmmakers started in Northern California, where they departed every morning at 4 a.m. to pick in the tomato fields and interview workers. After California, they drove to Oregon and interviewed individuals at a farmers market in Pioneer Square in downtown Portland. Next, they traveled to Hoffman Farms in Scholls, Oregon, to get a farmer’s point of view. From Oregon, the filmmakers headed north to the Skagit Valley in Washington. They spent two weeks filming the Youth Migrant Project, the migrant camps and a small farm where volunteers helped workers harvest vegetables. They interviewed the farmer to get his perspective of the industry.

The filmmakers began editing short previews of the film that winter and showed it to various groups for feedback. Previews were shown in Saint Martin’s classes taught by Brian Barnes, Ph.D., assistant professor of history, and Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the English department. A segment of the film was also shown during the University’s Scholars Day last year. The previews allowed for feedback from Saint Martin’s students, which, says Suazo, was critical in the final editing process.

Suazo and Hines, both pre-med students, began the full edit on the film in the summer of 2010. Fitting the edit sessions around work and school proved to be a challenge. “We edited on weekends and holidays,” reflects Suazo. “We often worked from sunrise to sunset on those days.”

The film sparked the development of a non-profit organization, also called Blood, Sweat and Berries. Its purpose is to promote social justice through art. The non-profit offers a scholarship for a high school senior. Saint Martin’s student Ashleigh Nelson is a spokesperson for the film and involved in the non-profit. “The film helped the non-profit grow dramatically in just under two years,” Nelson says. “It has allowed me to share my love for mission work with the entire community at Saint Martin’s.”

Ultimately, Suazo says, the group set out to produce a non-biased documentary that shares the viewpoints of both migrant workers and farmers and the impact consumers have on the industry. “I want viewers of our documentary to learn that the choices they make have an effect on the quality of life for others,” he says.

To watch a short preview of the film, or to learn more about the non-profit, visit For more details about the March 29 showing, contact Ashleigh Nelson at

Documentary viewing:
Blood, Sweat and Berries
Tuesday, March 29
7 p.m.
Saint Martin’s University, Harned Hall, Room 110

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, Catholic, coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 18 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 21 majors and six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Everett College, Centralia College, and Tacoma Community College.

Jennifer Fellinger
Vice President, Marketing and Communications