Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015: Who Will Pick Our Fruit?

As cars rush by on Interstate 5, locals take to a field to pick their own strawberries.  This photo was taken some time back, as now this field is part of a big box home improvement store and mall parking lot.

Last year, due to a lack of Hispanic labor, we left over half of our strawberry crop in the field to rot.  This year, the labor situation was no better.  In fact it was worse.  We needed roughly 30 workers for the 3 week season, we got 4 people for 4 days.  But this year we were ready.  With a major local grower no longer supplying strawberries for the fresh market, we were in a position to help fill that void.  Other fresh market growers needed fruit, we needed workers to pick.  It became a simple formula of you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.  The fresh market guys provided workers and packaging, we sold them fresh berries on the vine for an agreed price per pound. 

Still, the question lingers.  Who is going to pick our fruit?  The migrant labor force has become a political hot potato.  Like anything, once it becomes political, once the unyielding sides are chosen, any workable solutions from government go out the window.  So that leaves it up to us, and maybe that's the best way.

We went the season basically without hiring a crew.  It was a lesson learned.  We plan to do the same next year.  Less acres of berries, sell the fruit on the vine to the fresh market growers to fill in their needs, the rest, bring the public in and let them pick their own fruit.

So what's wrong with that?  Well, nothing really.  In fact, it might actually put a little fun back into a business that in recent years has become a real grind.  But consider this:  6 years ago we had a crew of 60 people and a payroll in excess of $100,000, most of which went back into our local economy.  Those jobs are now gone as is that payroll.

Who will pick our fruit?  Who is going to make-up for those lost jobs?  Who is going to pump that lost $100,000 back into the local stores and businesses? 

Who indeed.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 7, 2015: Counting the Years with the 4440

We call the John Deere 4440 the "big tractor."  Of course in the reality of today's world of modern farming, it is more like an old riding lawn mower when compared to the newest hi-tech tractors now in use.  In fact, ours, which is one of the earlier models is a 1980 vintage.  These are actually starting to be accepted into "vintage" tractor shows.

But take a look at these 4 photos.  They each have two things in common.  First, they all center around the same tractor, the 4440.  Second, they all show various generations of the Burwash clan.

Presented in the chronologically order in which they were taken, the first photo is a "selfie" long before such a thing was even invented.  I was chisel plowing at sunset, preparing for a late night.  I represent generation # 2.

The second shot was taken just a few years later, that's generation #3, Seth, disking down pea ground after the it was vined.

The third shot was taken by Janice and is probably my all time favorite photo, ever.  That's generation #2 and generation #4 (Cam the Man) heading out to do some field work with, you guessed it, the 4440.

The final shot was one I was hoping one day would happen. God bless my "little sister" Mary and hubby Randy, they brought Dad up last week-end and took this photo of generation #1 climbing up on the trusty "big tractor" to, in the Old Man's words, "Kick up some dust" mulching cucumber ground.

Four generations, one tractor.  That's what farming is really about.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May 23, 2015: Not So Neat and Orderly

Take a look at these two photos.  They both have something in common.  On this Memorial Day week-end, we take a moment or two and remember all the soldiers who have served and have died in that service. Often we see photos of those symmetrical battlefield cemeteries with row upon row of graves laid out in precise order.  Amazing in their perfection, poignant in the shear numbers,  but we also know that is not how it was at the moment.

The upper photo, the battlefield along the Greasy Grass, also known as The Little Big Horn is a different kind of military cemetery.  Scattered across hundreds of acres, along a nearly 3 mile ridge are simple white markers, showing where a member of Custer's 7th Calvary fell.  Interspaced with them, added later, are markers also showing where the last free roaming plains tribesmen also fell, although their numbers are few.

The lower photo is every much a battlefield cemetery like those neatly arranged monuments seen so often in photos this week-end.  It is even more-so like the cemetery that is the ridges and ravines of the Little Big Horn.  A lot of soldiers fell in this nondescript patch of woods.  Their bodies were scattered where I was standing to take the photo.  They were bent over the makeshift stone wall that can be seen in the distance.  They were piled one on top of the other on the sloping ground beyond that wall.  This is where Chamberlain and his handful of men from Maine made their stand on the Union left flank,  Little Round Top, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

It's not the neat, tidy, orderly military cemeteries I think about on Memorial Day.  It is places like these I think about. The Little Big Horn and Little Round Top, nearly a continent apart but have one thing in common.  Here is where you can sense and feel the horrible randomness and mayhem that is war.