August 10, 2013
Yesterday morning Dave and I drove to a farm a bit north of the Twin Cities to pick blueberries. Mind you, Dave had no enthusiasm for this venture, but I had gotten it in my head that it would be a fun outing and this is the perfect time to be picking blueberries, so off we went.
It was a fun morning and I'm glad we went, but: Picking blueberries is not all that easy. The sun was hot and the bushes are low to the ground, requiring kneeling or squatting, except when you have to stand and bend to get at them. We picked for a little over an hour, with me frequently shifting positions to relieve a cramp in my leg or a strain in my back. And, as I discovered, it takes a lot of picking to get a tray full of blueberries. (It takes a lot less time to fill a bag with apples when you are apple picking.)
"U-pick-em" farms are a fun outing for people like me who sit at a computer for large chunks of the day. Couple of hours outside and come home with a big load of delicious berries.
But as I was picking I started thinking of people who have to do work like this day after day all day long. When I was in my early teens, I used to think it would be fun to be a migrant farm worker. Traveling around picking fruit and vegetables seemed like it would be a cool thing to do. Of course I had no idea of the labor involved and what it would mean to have to work hard enough day after day to barely have enough money to scrape by.
Yesterday was a good reminder of the difficult lives of those in the farming industry. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers are some of the most economically disadvantaged people in this country, almost a quarter having a family income below the national poverty guidelines. In addition to low wages, thay generally lack access to worker’s compensation, or other benefits.
Something to think about as we eat the wonderful produce of this season.
Update: See the comment posted by Ellen Wertheimer that points out that I have understated the plight of these workers.
[Cross-posted from Creo en Dios.]
According to my research, 61% of migrant farm workers live in poverty. I checked because the 25% figure seemed low. In addition, the FLSA does not apply to them, so they do not get overtime pay, and many do not earn minimum wage. They have no health insurance or workers' compensation, and many of them are not in this country legally so even if they are injured on the job they are afraid to make any claims. Their situation is truly appalling.
Posted by: Ellen Wertheimer | Aug 12, 2013 9:48:08 AM
Additionally, picking fruit like strawberries is even more difficult, as they are lower to the ground; tomatoes and other veggies are also more difficult as the plants really scratch your hands. (I've done blackberries, strawberries, most vegetables, and peaches.)
Posted by: Anamaria | Aug 12, 2013 8:12:54 PM
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