Friday, July 3, 2015

July 3, 2015; The Cost of Freedom

This battery is set on a ridge facing across a broad open field at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  When you stand there and look across, you cannot believe men would march across that field in the face of these cannons and thousands of soldiers with their guns pointed at you.  But they did.  In fact, 152 years ago today, that very thing happened, here at Gettysburg.

The 4th of July is mostly thought of in terms of the Revolutionary War.  Dates vary from July 2 to July 4th, but somewhere in that window our Declaration of Independence was finalized and announced.  I would say it took time and lives to make that document meaningful, but that is probably wrong.  In reality I should be talking in the present text:  It IS taking time and lives to make that document meaningful.

July 4th is for the politicians.  They were the ones that wrote and debated the Declaration of Independence, lofty words with a grand meaning.  It was the common people that backed it up.

July 3rd is for the common people doing what we do to give meaning and purpose to the actions of those politicians.

For a long time now, I have not thought about Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, et. al. on the 4th.  My thoughts have centered more around names like Armistead,  Longstreet, Reynolds, Chamberlain, Pickett and the thousands of the nameless that died 152 years ago today in support of that document signed in Philadelphia years before.

Without us the politicians are nothing.  Without us, the Declaration of Independence is just a bunch of words and run-on sentences.

July 3rd is our day.

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.