If there is one golden nugget that I hope readers get out of this blog, it is that farming is tough, regardless of scale, and that we as Americans pay far too little for the food we eat given the amount of work that goes into production. In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to step up on my soap box and give everyone a good stern lecture on the topic, but one of my farmers, the guy who has been putting food on my table for the past 13 years, beat me to the chase.
Terra Firma Farms in Winters, California has been supplying me with delicious, organic fruit, veggies, and nuts with their CSA program for over a decade. If we are what we eat combined with the fact that every cell in our body is replaced within 7 years, then I have been completely remade from Terra Firma soil. Paul Holmes (Pablote), Paul Underhill (Pablito), and Hector Melendez are my farmers and I owe my life and health to their hard work and the work of their employees. Literally. In this week's farm newsletter, Pablito sent along a message that eloquently sums up all the things I wanted to preach from my soapbox. So instead of putting it in my own words, I'll share his:
This week, thousands of farms workers will be deported, having spent the entire summer and fall helping put food on the plates of American eaters. With the recession causing massive unemployment, the Department of Homeland Security appears to have stepped up efforts to find and arrest undocumented immigrants - "illegals". Yet unemployed U.S. citizens are not lining up for their jobs. It is true that competition has increased for farm jobs, but that's because former farm workers who moved into construction and other boom-related industries have returned to their roots in agriculture. The vast majority of farm workers, as always, are undocumented.
The sad history of our country is that the first Anglo settlers here would not have survived the first few years without the help of Native American[s] who showed them how to farm, hunt, and fish here. Yet once they had gleaned the important information from the natives, the Europeans set about conquering and exterminating them.
Without the skills, experience, and knowledge of mostly Mexican farm workers who tend and harvest crops across the U.S., our food system would collapse. Yet it is our official government policy to pretend that valuable agricultural workers are actually criminals who must be expelled. Thanksgiving seems to me like a great day to communicate to anyone enjoying the bounty produced by America's farms that whatever their feelings about immigration, we all need to display more respect and appreciation for everyone who helps put food on our plates.
My daughter's grandfather began his migrant farm career at the tender age of five. His family was very poor and they worked from sunup to sundown picking grapes, staving off hunger with cigarettes and gum. For those of you out there who think that illegal immigrants don't have a valid place in our country, you are clearly mistaken. Without the work of families, like my daughter's relatives, you would not be paying peanuts for the food on your table, if there were food at all. This Thanksgiving, as every year, we will be off to Fresno to spend the holiday with that very same man who toddled through grape vineyards as a child. Thank you Pablito for reminding us to honor the important role that my husband's family has played in the history of our country. We here at Itty Bitty have tremendous gratitude for all that you and your employees do.
And a huge amount of appreciation goes out to all the farmers who contribute to the health and well-being of our family, specifically Marin Sun Farms for the ethically raised meats that we have been receiving for almost a year and a half now, Phan Farms for your incredible edible eggs that we buy while waiting for our ladies to lay, Twin Girls Farm for your great fruit and pomegranates, and the $1 a pound organic fruit and nut people at the Alemany Farmer's Market (you know who you are).
If you are lucky enough to know the person that grows your food, send them some praise for their efforts. We owe them that much.