Remember the school field trips to your nearby farm? Live demonstrations of farmers milking cows. Not sure if these outings are hosted by public schools anymore but many moons ago, when I was a little wee lady, a few students in my elementary class were selected to milk a cow. I can’t recall if I volunteered or not but I didn’t have the opportunity to milk then, and still don’t know how. Fast forward to adulthood. Last winter I visited friends on the West coast; I was thrilled to eat fresh greens from their home garden. This experience led me to question my ability to feed myself — whether growing produce or working with farm animals.
Could I healthfully sustain myself if there were no more Food Coops, CSAs, farmers markets, bodegas, or grocery stores? What does it take to harvest lettuce? Well, Gabriel Thompson found out first hand. He is the author of the book, Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs [most] Americans Won’t Do. I finished this book a few days ago and was reminded of the workers who contribute to getting food to the tables of billions each day. Over the course of the year, the author worked in three different food-related industries. 1) picking lettuce in Arizona 2) working at a poultry plant in Alabama 3) delivering food via bicycle in New York City. Although it was personally challenging for Mr. Thompson, it’s an easy read plus it’s comical. He beautifully summarizes his point on page 290-291 saying:
There is also a burgeoning food movement sweeping the country concerned with how and where our food is grown and whether or not it is organic. At the moment, many of the issues being raised are centered on the consumer: Is the food safe for my children? How far did it travel to get to my grocery store? We should expand these concerns, demanding that the foods are produced in a way that is not only safe for consumers and environmentally sustainable, but also safe and sustainable for workers.
My passion for food can’t be limited to quality, environmental concerns, or taste alone; there are many human beings involved who have the same basic needs as every one else: to be loved, heard, respected, fed, clean, clothed, safe, and happy.
I would like to acknowledge the millions of food workers who break their backs, freeze their bums off, lose sleep, and take shit from every angle in order for us to eat well. Thank you to mother nature, farmers, truck drivers, distributors, receivers, cashiers, chefs, cooks, servers, delivery “boys”, and the many others who keep showing up every day in unsafe and unhealthy work environments.
Thanks and have a love-filled week!