Sunday, August 29, 2010

Road Trip Adventures, Day #3 (Avondale, CO Hobbs Family Farm & Pueblo CO)

To be seen clearly by another human being evokes bursting elation and terrorizing fear. If we are who we think we are, there is reason to grace magazine covers and hide in dark obscurity. This is not a case of distinguishing two (or several) faces but a branding of encapsulated, intricate souls.

*This soul world - walking : working : kneeling - as interpreted by others in their soul world.

Kaitlin and James traveled too far south on their journey east, but when they arrived under a full moon I could only be happy to extend their captive hours in a car. Now returned to passing over the road with air above and beneath them, a trail to family and friends as a marker of their presence is a great gift. This is how we were seen in August.

- - -
Author: Kaitlin Gravitt, sent via email 8/28/2010

* It’s about 9am and the house is silent. All the farm workers that woke up early in the morning are gone. I creep out of our floor bed past James to take in the soft morning sunlight that’s cutting across precise rows of crops all around. After a few minutes, I head towards my car to delicately pick out some fresh clothes and a toothbrush from the jammed backseat. Everything is so peaceful. Suddenly I hear a quick, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, BAM! Before me stand a super blond, skinny powerhouse of a girl. “Hi!” She says, and picks up a sweet orange tabby cat from under the car. She half pays attention to it as she rolls is in her arms back and forth. I feel sorry for the cat.

“Hi!”, she says again. “This is blue moon, and I’m Avery. She’s my cat. I have had her since she was born. We have the same birthday. March 14th. She’s five years old”.

I blink. “Hi there”, I say and pet the kitty behind the ears. “She’s a cute cat”. I look around at the continued silence around us. “Where’s your mom or dad?” I say.

“My mom’s in the field.” Avery responds. “Can I come into your house?!”

“Ummm, OK”, I say. We all tromp into the house with squirming cat in tow. Avery makes sure to show me the frog holes, trap spots, and secrets in the 20 feet between the car and door to the house.

* James plops down on the couch, snuggling in between the arm rest and me. We start talking about daily adventures and route plans. After about 10 minutes go by we hear my friend enter in the back door. I am still focused on my conversation with James so it sounds garbled but I can hear my friend talking with Avery. “What the… Avery?”

“Don’t worry,” Avery says, “I’ve already figured how to get myself out”.

“Oh Shit!” James says slapping his hand on his forehead, “I forgot to let Avery out of the dog's cage in our lion game.” We all start cracking up laughing…

* Splat! Another juicy tomato squirts some seed up onto me face. You can barely see my blue gloves buried underneath the mound of bright red tomatoes I am squishing in between my fingers and rolling back and forth across the grate. We are threading tomatoes to push out the seeds and juice, let them ferment for 24 to 48 hours and then sell the dry seeds. “My forearms are going to be so buff!” I say and my friend laughs. About 45 minutes later my hands start to cramp up and my forearms are burning from the acid in the tomatoes. It hurts, but I don’t want to stop. “This is pathetic”, I think to myself. “I have barely started and these folks have been working for hours already”. To sneak in a break I look over my shoulder to see James and Avery jumping in circles on the huge trampoline at the side of the house. Avery is energetically rambling off orders and questions to James. A smile unconsciously sneaks in. It’s good to see him more happy and lighthearted after receiving some bad work news earlier that morning.

* “Are you all visiting?” The cash register clerk asks us at Los Locos Liquors. “We are,” I say pointing to James and I, “but she is a farmer”. I instantly register how stupid that sounds in the middle of a farming town. I was trying to say she was a local farmer but it didn’t come out. “I mean, I mean, she…” I couldn’t correct myself before he cuts into the next conversation topic.

“You all should head down to the rodeo tonight” he says, “They have martini shots.”

“Martini shots!” I say surprised, “ That’s…. interesting” .

“It’s a local band” the clerk responds expressionless. “Oh”, I say. I have now managed to make an ass of myself in rapid series in less than a minute and a half. I think I am done. I thank him and walk outside.

* If you find yourself on a cattle farm, you inevitably become part of the milking process. Or maybe that’s just me. I met Laura when we entered as she was finishing up pouring the morning's milk into jars. Drinking fresh whole milk is heavenly. She looked tired.

Next thing I knew I was standing in the middle of a pin holding up a milk canister for a new born calf that had been separated from its mother. It was so sweet and instantly knew I was there to feed it. Suddenly the calf clamped onto the fake nipple and with great force rips at it, tugging and pushing on it to get more milk. My mouth drops and I look up at my friend on the other side of the pin laughing at me. “Holy crap,” I say, “ You got to be kidding me. They do that when it’s attached to the mother? If I was the mother I would kick that thing off!”

* The day ended with cooking together late at night in the house kitchen. Most of the ingredients were fresh from the labors and farms around us. Fresh roasted green chilies, harvested basil pesto, spaghetti, fresh tomato sauce, and red wine smells filled the house. Laura showed up at around 10pm, only just then finishing her work for the day. Her hands are black from the leaf acid of picking tomatoes all day. Talking more with Laura and my friend, my eyes grow big at the hours and endless work they put in everyday to bring food to others tables. The daily struggle to just keep ahead can be felt and seen everywhere. The intense labor and hours that go into the diverse crops packed with nutrition and sweet goodness can not be taken for granted. Most of us are so far removed from where our food comes from, we expect it to be there, everyday. In an attempt to not sound too preachy, I cannot be reminded enough of the gift of good food, the struggle most small farmers endure, the art and craft of “unconventional farming” that is fading, and our responsibility to remember and support those that nourish us.

Sweet dreams all. Suenos con los angelitos. ~ Kaitlin and James

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thoughts on a Farm

This is for two women who ascended The bar this week.

A recent quick trip to DC mimicked a plop of effervescent antacid in water, lots of swirling and mingling and muscle unclenching. What started as an innocent re-entry conversation about daily farm life ended with the grand idea to graffiti existential philosophy on the backsides of dairy cows. The thought is not madness: among such a palette for reflection and soul stretching there are too many hours between the moment of enlightenment and one's journal. I must keep record of this illumination with scribbles, otherwise neural pathways and indents on the heart seem too subtle.

This is for Larga Vista, the raw milk dairy that momentarily was smeared with tags - the impression of small moments much more durable.

:: scroll through the following posts or click the links. last photo in set is "Milk Parlor" ::





Arrived via Mail






Hospital Bird

Milk Parlor

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Group member of ASOCIAl Yeguare, Tabla Grande, Honduras (beans)

buoyantierra author, Avondale CO (arugula, garlic)
Gil Obando, El Ocotal, Honduras (coffee)
Dr. Mike Bartolo, CSU Arkansas Valley Research Station (onions)
Market, Yuscaran, Honduras

Exael Obando, El Ocotal, Honduras (coffee)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Handed -

Head-tilting question of last week: why tell the story of individual workers?

Is this not a vain attempt to seek affirmation for dedicating 50% of waking hours to mundane/excruciating work while eliminating hope to someday model pristine fingernails and focus attention inside four walls ever again?


Not exactly.

If we know each other better and are prompted to think in terms of human livelihood, will the value we place on food be reflected in our assessment and investment in farming's interwoven component parts?

via Wendell Berry, agriculture's exchange with agri-industry

culture > industrial economy
land > resources
work > labor/management
people > consumers
community > government

hence, H A N D E D >

to eaters - from field to the table

from workers - economically/culturally displaced, willing, idealistic, sore

through generations - soil, bugs, families, environmental stewards, politicians

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Farmer+workers of Harland's Creek Farm CSA, NC

"The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation."
Oxford University Press

“Locavore” received word of the year accolades in 2007, thus officially converting farmers into the dirt-painted nerd : sexy, awkward, you might claim to be one in search of a counter-cultural identity amongst a socially claustrophobic bar scene.

Last week while delivering to Whole Foods our farmer’s wife was greeted with wild applause from staff whom adoringly blanketed the delivery lady and twisty garlic scapes with oozy gazes and kind words. Don’t need to wait for references to this ego: but I was the one marked with garlic smell wafting from downward facing dog, releasing pain, tension, exhaustion accumulated in 12-hour days of hoeing. Can't we all be the celebrity if only for free, exotic olives from the bar?

Please keep all limbs inside the trend, we’ve arrived at (only one of many) of my summer preoccupations: labor.

Geographically based in an agricultural community dependent on seasonal workers and organized by Federal Labor laws excluding documented persons from overtime, the right to organize, minimum wage not to mention the dense hole of human right issues concerning undocumented workers, the self-absorbed reflection on farmworkers is contextually relevant and available in multiple arrangements.

What you can expect to hear on this issue in coming water cycles:

*Handed –
Stories of farmworkers handling your food and food systems handling workers. Specifically referring to personal experiences and relationships on farms in the Arkansas Valley River Basin. Note that where I weed, weed, and weed some more on non-chemical, medium to small-scale agriculture farms/ranches differs tremendously from the work of others in conventional crops and farming systems.

*Laudable Ladies Laboring (on Lunes) -
Profiles of women growing food and changing perceptions/roles/cultural artifacts around agriculture// soil // marketplaces from their work on the land. Seriously fantastic female farmers. And a note: the word locavore is attributed to four women from the Bay area.

*Farm Log -
(Hopefully) Weekly accounts of the work we put in and the monetary values assigned to our time and tasks. The love and dirt on what it really takes to get organic veggies to the tables of a community.

Moments when lady bugs take flight from super-charged internet cell phones.

For all the words, it is simply this:

“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”
Cesar Chavez

Monday, May 24, 2010

Border Crossing

In conversation about my reasons for departing Latin America I referenced plans to work on farms for the growing season. The concept of traveling north to seek employment in the vast fields of the US-A stressed transparent relevancy to the experiences of those in Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, while poorly concealing my embedded privilege, stuffed in a rusty-colored REI backpack and stamped in the passport that legitimized my legal status as a worker. Despite a genuine connection -
i'm leaving to seek employment that pays - I congectured that in the States my work would be appreciated/validated because of birthright status as a citizen. Not true for those who rode the skins of trains and crossed black-shadowed deserts with their heavy expectations.

From California to North Carolina to New Mexico I trotted after the great wings of my carrier touched down from Mexico City. Following the criss-cross of interviews accompanied by consternation regarding geographical distance to family, the best opportunity for future grad school applications, supportive community, access to mentors and adequate pay, these feet settled in a rural community 15 miles from my childhood home.

It is this frontier, being rooted to the center of my history, which proves the most unfamiliar of all places I've been since leaving 10 years prior.

In the present morning, tan hands over white keyboard colored by rosy gashes; dirt woven between cracked lines in rough skin, a sore shoulder. All these physical markers I do not hide in formal company, documentation of self-satisfying labor and sacrifice. Underneath however wail grave doubts that the actual work is not condoned by people sitting at the table and reaping the organic-local reward. Here I include myself: I forgot the excruciating time it takes to weed onions, the wheel barrow blisters, irrigation races and sun burns just above the pant line from bending backside to the sun.

This present life choice finds me without requisite documents for traveling from the romantic ideals of land stewardship+feeding people good food+building community+changing the system+fighting for justice ---> to the practice of growing plants+making a living from one's labor+caring for the body+maintaining a life connected to others.

What one needs
culturally/socially/and personally appropriate means of acquiring it
and mobility to do so as a farmworker
will plausibly prove
more a circumference
than border.