Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Out my back door....

These days, when I go out my back door, this is what I see. Rows and rows of black plastic covered mounds sprouting strawberry plants. With their delicate blossoms and juicy red fruit, they make an appealing tableau stretching out in the distance. Days like today, they look quite beautiful, still damp from the rain we had briefly.

I don't find it quite so picturesque on days when the field is a hive of bustling activity. At those times, I am somewhat nonplussed by the sight of farm workers dressed warmly against the cold. They hustle up and down the rows, almost running in their quest to pick as many berries as they can. They straddle the row and bend deeply, hands flying through the bushes looking for the ripe berries. It's not hard work, just hard on you work. I know, I've picked a few strawberries.The stories you read about the conditions for farm workers who pick strawberries are pretty horrendous. According to the statistics, the average farm worker makes about $6 an hour, 33% are undocumented workers, most are married and women account for 25% of the workers. Seems like a lot of hard work so I can have fresh berries at the local market. Yet, truthfully, the quart of strawberries pictured in the blog post below, cost $4 so I didn't buy any. Last year, they left the berries to rot in the field because the owners said it cost more to pick them than they could get at market. Liability issues keep them from opening U-pick fields. So acres of strawberries rotted and farm workers didn't even earn anything. It was hard not the step through the barbed wire fencing and help myself to all I could pick. But, they're not my berries.

This is the heart of the illegal immigrant debate. It's complex, like most moral issues.

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