Bitter Immigration Harvest in Lake County
Pear growers in Lake County, California are suffering serious losses this year due to lack of picking labor. The Bush immigration policy has suppressed illegal labor immigration to the point where our crops can’t be picked.
The many reports gave no indication that the losses may spread to other sectors: grapes, apples, coastal greens, or specialty fruits.
Pear growers grovel before the trinity that all food producers cower before: growing, picking, and distribution. The California model has always failed in its picking and distribution so our fruit is always lousy.
It’s unfair to Lake county pear growers this year, but circumstance finally nailed growers badly for this country’s disdain for labor. For all of their lives growers were used to desperate pickers being turned away, laboring hard for low pay with no benefits, often in very dangerous conditions. When that one source of labor failed there was absolutely nowhere to turn and the crop rotted in the fields.
California ruins its fruit crops every year by picking them green so they can roughly tumble through a national--many times global—distribution system. The result is something that looks like fruit, it’s called fruit, but the tasteless mush or dull rock in one’s mouth yells the truth: failure.
In theory labor could organize to ameliorate picking problems, but Mexican picking labor presents special problems in a country that actively discourages unions. The internet offers great potential in breaking out of the green distribution model, but would require growers to take it on with co-ops, an unlikely scenario for humans greatly burdened with the huge goal of growing a viable crop.
One of California’s demi-gods, Alice Waters, had an epiphany with strawberries from San Louis Obispo country beofre she opened her restaraunt. She’d picked them fully ripe and had a flat of on her lap for a flight up the coast, the smell wafting throughout the cabin. In less than an hour Alice, like she was fully hooked up to Jesus, had given them all away to entranced humans, giggling and sighing with delighted ecstasy as flavor from heaven washed over their palates and souls.
That’s what real fruit can do, and Alice has built a famous, meteoric career on it.
As a country the United States made these choices for labor and distribution, but fortunately choices can always be changed. Perhaps if our goals were simply the raptures of fresh fruit instead of war, oil and machines our lives would be a lot happier and our precious planet biology would be thriving. What good is a new Lexus if one never gets to eat a real Bartlett pear?
Sincere condolences are extended to the growers of Lake County, good humans who have done the very best they can in a system they did not set up. It’s a brutal life of waiting and worry along with all the work, and to watch one of the best crops of all time rot on the limbs was a sore trial.
It may seem foolish to spend so much time and energy on pears, but if we grew them correctly and distributed them right does it seem likely we’d be worried disastrous oil dependence, global warming or a lying war that butchers tens of thousands?