Ok so I’d never heard of Farmworker Appreciation Day before it appeared on the Godspace email, but it has really made me think. In fact the National Farmworkers Ministry has a whole week in March where is brings about awareness of farmworkers. Check out this site – https://nfwm.org/news/nfaw-2022/. This site tells you a bit about its history – https://nationaltoday.com/farmworker-appreciation-day/ But really all these “national days” should be a kickstarter to get us thinking not just a “do today and then forget about it/them”
My friend, Eric, is a cowman. He’s been a cowman most of his life. He turned 60 this year. He works long very physical hours and only gets every other weekend off. His pay is not great and he cannot retire until he reaches the statutory retirement age.
But for Eric, at least he lives in the UK. For those bringing our food from elsewhere or who have been trafficked to work over here, their conditions can be terrible. But we expect our shops and supermarkets and doorstep deliveries to have a large variety of food at a price we can afford. But how often do we think how it got to us? We cannot appreciate something if we don’t even think about how it got to us.
No one stood on their doorsteps to clap the farmworkers here in the UK. It was good to clap the NHS workers because covid hit them hard. But for the farmworkers, they had to keep going too. For those who supplied the hospitality industry, many lost their jobs. Now people moan that no one wants to pick the fruit and veg that itinerant workers used to do; many of whom have stopped their travelings for a while because of various issues that are too much to go into in this post and would detract from what today is all about.
But actually as Joni Mitchel sang once “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” [Big Yellow Taxi – 1970] this is what happened with the farmworkers. No one realised what they did or how hard they worked, and often would moan about the “influx of foreigners.” But those foreigners picked our fruit and veg. Now we are noticing with the war between Russia and Ukraine that much of Europe’s grain comes from Ukraine. Firstly did we really know that? How often do we take the time to work out where our food does come from? And second did we ever really appreciate those workers?
As with my friend, Eric, who works 48 weeks of the year, 6 days a week, we don’t give him or others like him a thought. We just expect milk to make it to our supermarkets/doorstep. And often in our way of not really knowing the hows and whys of things we can be critical of how farming is done, bemoan methods we know very little about.
Yes it would be great if all the milk cows could live in fields and all the food we need be grown without pesticides, but are we willing to pay those extra costs? Pay for the extra hours it takes to bring cows back and forth from fields? Support farmers and farmworkers if they made less on their crops?
I do go to the local farm shop, get my veg from Oddbox which takes the fruit and veg the supermarkets reject, have a milkman who delivers in glass bottles. But I also have a husband who earns a decent wage so we can afford all this.
But whether we buy from a cheap supermarket or an expensive farm shop how often do we think to appreciate all the work that has gone into growing our food? When we say “grace” do we think to not just thank God for our food but thank the people who worked hard to produce our food; who worked the land, dealt with weeds and pesticides, had aching muscles due to the physical side of their work, and all those other things that go on to produce our “daily bread.”
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