In today’s culture we have a chef worship thing and we really should focus on the people who grow our food; we need to have a farmer worship.
I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in California, which was recognized as the fruit & vegetable basket of the country. Now, due to the drought, farmers are struggling, if not dying due to lack of water.
Naturally; vegetables, fruits, gardens and farms are in my DNA. In addition to canning.
I grew up with large vegetable gardens annually. My Abuelito, Higinio grew green onions, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, chilies and many different squash and pumpkins. But, the strangest and my favorite were always the Blue Hubbard’s my Abuelito grew. We ate those up to 6-8 months after harvesting them. You needed an ax to split open. We had many savory and sweet dishes, and I do mean many.
A continuation of above Facebook post on farmers and chefs. We not only grew up in the fruit and vegetable basket of the country, we worked the land like many of my neighbors and friends. It’s just what you did in the San Joaquin Valley during summer and school breaks. We didn’t know what vacations were. And child labor laws were ignored. I started working in the fields by the age of 8 or 10.
We picked cotton, garlic, potatoes, grapes, chopped weeds, thinned, sorted tomatoes on the newly invented FMC tomato harvesters and packed lettuce.
I almost forgot we were younger when we picked plums in and around Healdsburg with my Abuelitos. To be honest we created more of a mess than actually working. I am grateful I never picked cantaloupes or watermelon, that was extremely heavy work. Later, I worked in the cantaloupe packing sheds. This was a summer office job weighing trucks and routing trains.
I am abundantly Blessed and Thank God for this and all of my experiences.
Sure it was hard, hot, back-breaking work. Sometimes there were no bathrooms (Honey Buckets) or they were very far away. And the same for water, sometimes it was very far away. But, I dug deep into my core to persevere. I thought of the generations of women before me, and knew I had to do this.
My wish is not for you to feel bad or sorry for me, as one acquaintance shared.
I write of my personal experiences as a way of recording and sharing these unique experiences of growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, because it was a gift!
A precious gift I will always treasure. It has made me the strong, hard-working, driven woman who is grateful and appreciative. Part of what makes my experiences so unique; is that there was no one like Mi Mama! She was a trailblazer, way ahead of her time, she spoke her mind, she was strong, a one of a kind, her sense of humor kept you laughing, she was kind and gentle, you just wanted to hang out with her!
I am a much stronger and richer woman for these experiences. Waking up at 4 a.m. builds character, I was taught good work ethics; such as, if you work hard you will be rewarded. How to “stretch” and value a dollar. And, a multitude of skills associated with work. The most valuable lesson I learned while working the fields. Was that I did not wish to do this type of work the rest of my life! But, also to respect the land, I gained a deep love and appreciation for what mother earth provided us. It is a part of me.
There were many good times also someone inevitably had a transistor radio in their front shirt pocket and we sang and kept rhythm to the music as we talked and visited, it helped make the day go by faster. Followed with laughter and giggles. During lunch time we swapped burritos. The early mornings are especially penetrated in my soul; the smells that emanated from la Tierra, the colors and pure beauty of seeing morning rise.
Your work attire was crucial also in the beginning of Mi Mama’s days, my aunts and their girlfriends covered up like Muslim women wearing a burqa, all you could see were a sliver of their eyes. It was the law of the field. But, underneath all these cotton headscarves they’re make-up was impeccable, they were beautiful. They did not want the sun to burn them or damage their beautiful skin.
I abided by the traditional attire of a field worker woman. But, by noon of the second day, I had stripped to jeans and a tank top, I was/am a free-spirit. I wrapped my long sleeve shirt around my waist. Taking in the sun. All of the women were flabbergasted and gasping. As if I had committed a mortal sin. I just chuckled it off. And told Mi Mama I felt too hot and constricted. Mi Mama was so good and usually just allowed me to do “my thing” within reason, of course.
Upon returning home, I would see Mi Mama and aunts strip off there head dress wrappings they looked fresh and ready to go out.
Years later, when I went to work in the field and returned home from working in the fields, I was red, sweaty and sunburned. I decided to start wearing a hat.
The women of past generations knew what they were doing.