It wasn’t until I moved to the East Coast in 2012 that I set foot on a farm to pick my very own produce, apples. Apple picking in Upstate New York is a common excursion for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and to marvel at the gorgeous fall foliage.For whatever reason, my fear of being stereotyped with the negative connotations that came along with the term “agriculture” slowly began leaving my mind. There were many factors as to why this happened but what mattered was that I finally began to accept the beauty of this labor. When I went to Vietnam last summer I found myself in awe watching the farm workers in the rice fields. As beautiful as it was to see, I know that for many it is a job out of necessity just as it is for all of my fellow migrant workers in California. When I moved back to the Central Valley last winter I had in mind that I wanted to partake in the berry season this Spring. Last Saturday, my mother and I drove to Vanderhelm Farms in Modesto, which is only a ten minute drive from my home. Located off of Albers Road, you have the option to pick from 12 different varieties of berries. Berry Season begins in May and continues until early June. We arrived to the farm around 8:30 am to avoid getting beat up by the sun. It was a beautiful field with the bushes ranging in size from 3 to 6 feet tall. We collected three different varieties in our borrowed blue bucket, Snow Chaser, Jewel, and Abundance. When we went to pay, we had collected 1 pound exactly adding up to $3. Not bad at all!It was a beautiful Saturday morning spent with the land and an activity I would like to continue during my time in California. As they say, sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate it. Now 20+ years later, I’m doing just that. Lastly, I’m making an effort to be more aware of farm workers and their rights. In the current state of our country this group of people are being scapegoated now more than ever. I know that I’m speaking in vague terms but please before you go and judge the workers that are feeding you, familiarize yourself with their working and living conditions. Thank you to all the migrant workers and farmers that continue to provide me and our country with fresh and plentiful produce. Your work does not go unnoticed.
Having grown up in the Central Valley of California, which is highly recognized for its agriculture, I had the privilege of consuming the best produce in the land from surrounding farms.
During road trips with my family, I remember looking out our car window as a little girl and seeing migrant workers gracefully collecting crops under the unforgiving sun. My parents would then share stories of how my grandparents would take them to work to help with “the pisca” or picking season.
Going to a farm and picking my own produce is something that I never considered doing for fun. Growing up, my parents made me politically aware of the hardships that migrant workers continue to encounter to this very day. As I mentioned earlier not only did they share their personal stories with my brothers and I, but they also took us to community events in which we received more insight on the NFWA and UFW.
At one particular event at Stanislaus State in Turlock, CA, we got to hear civil rights activist Dolores Huerta speak on her commitment to improving the lives of farm workers.