early imaginings to account for the invisibility of farm workers

17 Feb

When I was growing up we had raspberry bushes in the backyard. Picking raspberries was a prickly affair, arms twisting, fingers grasping. At the grocery store I saw bags of frozen raspberries, sold by the pound. How on earth did those hundreds of ripe fruits get off their branches into those bags?

I grew up in the prairies. I thought I knew about farming, but all I knew was wheat, canola, flax… all harvested with huge machines: combines, bailers, tractors. Even cows were milked with machines. So it is not so surprising that I imagined robotic raspberry-picking machines with conveyor belts and no humans in sight.

I was actually able to continue believing this for a very long time, as an adult feeling it was probably a bit far-fetched but being offered few other suggestions. I dreamed of making documentaries (and children’s books) about how cranberries get to grocery stores.

Obviously the farm workers were missing from this equation. How was I able to live for years, eating food, without farm workers ever being mentioned? I am physically shocked when I reflect on how estranged from reality most of regular life is.

In this vein, I wanted to share this TedxFruitvale conference on farm workers. Each speaker is under 10 minutes which allows us to hear many different voices and issues.  Their list of speakers is here, and their Youtube playlist also automatically advances.

P.S. I would love your comments!  How did you imagine food systems in your childhood? Where there robots? Where there foods just too mysterious to imagine?  Did you have embarrassing moments of realization that, for example, cows are more than just a logo for the dairy industry? When did you first become aware of farm workers?


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