In the Family Way

HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian

Often it takes Ana a while to put things together. Take for instance this Ag Law & Policy Conference at the Vermont Law School. Some of the discussion was around immigrant labor. At the end of the conference was a film regarding a young man from Mexico who died on a farm in VT due to a mechanical accident.
The immigrant advocates did fund raisers so that the young man’s body could be sent home to his family.
Now – maybe I missed something, but if someone died in an accident on my farm, I would consider it my responsibility, my moral duty, to send his body home.
In the film, immigrant laborers talked about the situation in Mexico, why they came to the US and the working conditions on VT farms. That’s when something else caught my attention.

One young man was talking about how hungry he was. Long hours left them too tired to cook when they got home.

On all the farms I have worked on, I was provided the noon meal, and ate at the able with the farm family. This provided me with a needed break, wonderful home cooked meals, and a chance to learn more about farming and the area, from the farmers.
Now I can understand that if you have an operation that has a regular crew of workers, everyone sitting down to the family table might be too much. What about having a lunch room, with a kitchen, and a cook? How about if the farmer and his management staff made it a practice to regularly eat with the crew? Wouldn’t this provide for a better workplace? Better communication? Better language skills in both directions?

In the farmhouse my husband and I first lived in there was a huge room we used as a living room. I found out later it was the dining room. In the old days this room had a table that sat 36 people. At harvest times, when all the neighbors would gather to help bring in the crops, the farm women would put on a feed for everyone. As a reward for hard work there was this time of fellowship and sociability.

Of course that was just a few times a year, but it could provide a model for today.

After all – it’s harder to treat someone like dirt if they are one of the family.

Hmmmm – and there’s an idea for another column – how do we treat our dirt these days?