Matriarch Monday: Thinking about Farmworkers

ma.tri.arch n. a woman who rules a family or tribe

I will write this column weekly (sometimes will pubish on Tuesday as life would have it) with various topics and stories that speak to the divine feminine, the wonder woman in each of us, the strength, kindness, nurturing, hard work, sadness, fears, and togetherness we share as women. We are the rulers and nurturers of our own tribes, of our own lives. We do a lot and have a lot to say about taking care of business for a more compassionate, sane world. Basically, we rule!!

Ernesto Silva, Thank You for our Food

This week's post is about something amazing my sister did this past Sunday to honor farm workers in her local community in rural Western Washington. Together with farm worker leaders from the National Farm Worker Ministry, local faith community leaders, worker leaders from the National Food Chain Workers Alliance, WA State Labor Council, environmental workers,  local non-profit Community to Community (C2C), friends and supporters, they marched 12 miles to reflect on and honor the day in the life of a farm worker. They started the march at 5:30 AM (typical start time for farm workers) and marched in rural WA state, along the Canadian border, along acres of raspberry and blueberry fields. My brother-in-law is a land surveyor, and he mapped the 12 mile route to make sure they had a safe place to walk that wasn't on private land.

They marched all day in quiet contemplation. They honored and remembered migrant farm worker, Ernesto Silva, who died one year ago working on a berry farm there. He had requested a break to go to the hospital because he didn't feel well and thought he had sun stroke. The supervisor told him he would be fired if he took a break, so Ernesto kept working and died later that day. That berry farm supplies  berries that we buy in the grocery store. Ernesto and many  farmers in our communities work tirelessly, often in terrible working conditions, for very little pay. Their work provides us with food to eat. 

Today I am taking a minute to reflect on where the food I feed myself and my family comes from and how much work goes into its production. I am so thankful for the farmers here in Central Texas, who work under the forbidding Texas summer sun to continue bringing food to the farmer's markets, restaurants and stores in Austin . They have the grit to keep going even when floods come and wash away entire crops and thousands of dollars of investment, even in freezing winter weather, even in August in Texas. Right now at farmer's markets in Austin, you can find cucumbers, okra, peppers, potatoes, onions, eggplant, basil,  meat, eggs. I'm blown away that anything can grow at all in this heat!! 

I'm grateful for sharing food in community. Thank you to the man my husband does carpentry for that sent home this week beautiful eggplants, hot peppers, and basil from his garden. I made super spicy salsa, eggplant parmesan, and am going to make Baba Ganoush. I've never been a great veggie gardener (I wish I had this talent and patience, but I do better with growing herbs, fruit trees, and grapes with the occasional miraculous veggie), and I think it's so awesome when people are able to grow food in their gardens, and then they share it with their community (I feel so, so lucky and happy whenever friends share veggies from their gardens! It's the greatest gift. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that it usually brings tears to my eyes when a thoughtful soul has the care to send some eggplants they grew or drop off a zucchini on my porch!). In this way we can take care of each other, and it feels like something right in the world. Beautiful and nourishing and kind. Sustaining life.

When I buy veggies at the grocery store, usually they come from Mexico or California. Thank you to the farm workers there too...I am sure you are working your asses off. Way harder every day than I have worked on any one day in my life.

And while I'm being thankful for my food, I consider all the other people on the food production chain that work hard, are underpaid and don't get paid vacation, health benefits or sick that we can all eat. I'm thinking about restaurant workers, moms and grandmas. Who else am I forgetting? Please feel free to write a comment and tell me if I'm forgetting you or someone important that helps us have food.

Thank you to the plants and animals and mother earth that supports all of this life. Thank you from my heart, truly and sincerely. I hope to reciprocate, to return care and gifts to you. But at the very least, you have my respect and deep gratitude.

12-mile march to reflect on a day in the life of a farm worker. At the head of the march is an elderly migrant farm worker being pushed in a wheel chair. He set the pace for others to follow.

12-mile march to reflect on a day in the life of a farm worker. At the head of the march is an elderly migrant farm worker being pushed in a wheel chair. He set the pace for others to follow.