We all gotta eat. That’s a crazy phrase that most ‘Mericans recognize as meaning; gotta go to work.  Here’s a story about food, fuel, work, and the centralized system and the equally crazy experience I had in October harvesting squash in the desert.

Desert Bugs Bunny 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZONESErkco

I live in the middle of nowhere and work for an Organic Farm 44 miles away installing beneficial insectaries for most of the year. Around about October there’s butternut squash to be harvested and generally I can make up any hours I owe by participating in this fiasco.

 

It’s a short window. It requires a combination of long hours, manpower, large machinery and of course the squash.

 

Organic farms! I love organic farms! butterflies, rainbows, tweeting birdies, worms, love, beaucolic scenery, sustainability, green jobs, food lovingly picked, sympatico – I’m there!

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Nah, not always. How about gun shots heard ringing out from the local medium security prison, beep beep beep emanating from telehandlers, tires spewing gravel and dust, fire up and grumble John Deer tractors over and over, black smoke diesel pouring from the exhaust pipe, loud country music, the crunch and pop of exploding squash not good enough for market (bruised, unripe, scratched) every time the tractor and trailer lurch forward, loading boxes crashing and banging on and off the 40’ flat beds, and semi’s pulling in and out of the parking lot exchanging a stream of empty boxes for Fifty 1200 pound boxes loaded with butternut squash. Oh and barking dogs.

It’s a veritable killing field of squash.

For the most part, once your farm gets bigger than 500 acres – you’re fucked. You’re tied into the centralized system we call food here in ‘Merica and you are at the mercy of centralized economics, consumerism and frankly the stock market.

Time is money. Remember? Last year’s numbers for labor costs were $1200 per acre to hire human beings to pick up each and every marketable squash and hand load it into the 4′ x 4′ x 4′ wooden boxes.

This year a conveyor belt, attached to the front of a tractor was added. Humans in the field pick up the squash and place it on said belt and humans on the truck – in and between these boxes – hand load the squash as it comes off the conveyor into the boxes. The flatbed truck with the boxes and the conveyor belt tractor must keep pace and direction with one another as they move down the field. The flatbed / tractor has to move forwards and backwards in incremental amounts to insure no human in or around the boxes gets crushed or their legs broken by the conveyor.

Did I say that the person driving the flatbed tractor has to do all of this while looking backwards?

Big corporations know they’re losing ‘market share’ because people are trying not to eat crap and choosing to go organic, so there’s a big Buy Up going on you may not know about. Reclaiming market share by buying up all the organic middle man processors is one way of doing this. Ask General Mills.

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Here’s how the idiocy of the centralized monster works.

I get up at 5am, leave at 6am, fill the truck with gas, drive 44 miles, work 10 hours to harvest butternut squash. Repeat for 11 days out of 12, 1000 miles, 110 hours.

General Mills, who just bought out Annie’s and Pacific Foods trucks the squash, processes the squash into Organic Butternut squash soup and sells it to Costco. On my day off, we drive 75 miles to Spokane, buy the same Organic Butternut squash soup and drive 75 miles back home. WTF?

Pee Wee Herman “connect the dots, la la la, connect the dots, la la la.

Pee Wee Herman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9u2UssRhyk

10 hours each day of solid noise dirt sweat and dust and a view of the desert and a medium security prison.

The farm, for now, gets its water from deep underground non replenishable aquifers that is of course, until such time the powers that be build another tax subsidized idiot canal to deliver the water needed, and the farmers using the canal go into to debt to access the water. That’s assuming the 18+ trillion dollar debt hasn’t tapped out each and every living citizen consumer in this great land. Michael Pollen points out in Omnivore’s dilemma;

Energy input required to produce food this way is 10x greater than the nutritional energy calories we get out of eating the same product. We’re eating oil.

Wow.

For someone with sensory overload issues I couldn’t help noticing the difference between the Organic Farm and the Permaculture Farm where we live. Same desert, same Bsk Climate. Only different.

Organic Farm:

Noise, heat, dust, machinery, belching fuel, migrant work, constant sense of urgency, exhaustion, millions of gallons of water gone, mono crops, soil erosion.

Vs.

Permaculture Farm

Quietude, cool shade, moist earth, hand rakes & shovels, well thought out design, creative self expression, rain catchment, diversity, soil creation.

Both produce food.

Permaculture, what a weird word, ah that’s just a bunch of Rainbow Farts. It doesn’t really work.

Really