Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our First Harvest

It's the night before harvest and I am a nervous wreck. I was feeling pretty good until the neighbor from next door called and told me the people I hired left their forklift on their property.


The neighbors began venting their problems and concerns with the past harvesters. As I was talking to them on the phone, I was doing my best calm banker voice to settle the situation down as they were re-living bad experiences. All night I could barely sleep as I laid in bed anxious for the morning to come, so that I could get the fork lift off the neighbors' property and try to direct these pickers. The problem is, I have never harvested before and really have no idea how this is going to work.  Three months ago I was a city slicker and now I am a farmer who is supposed to direct a harvest. What am I doing? What was I thinking? I don't have any farmer training or experience. As I direct them, I am at the same time praying and believing that God has blessed me with this land, so I am going to do the best I can. I may fail, but if I do then I am going to get right back on that horse and give it another try.



It's morning time and dark. The alarm has gone off at o'dark a clock. I look outside and the pickers are here in my driveway ready to work.


I walk outside and can barely see people's faces. I am asking these strangers if they know where the foreman is and they replied back by pointing in his direction. Finally a guy said "he is in the white truck." The first thing I said to the foreman was, "Thank you for coming, but we need to get that forklift off my neighbors' property ASAP." The foreman apologized for the mistake. We then began to talk about how we have to change plans on how were are going to pick the grapes. The neighbors' property was off limits, so we needed to come up with a new plan. 


 
See in the past, the neighbors were best friends with the lady that lived here, so they built a road that went towards their private road. It made it convenient for the semi-truck to pull up in the back and haul the grapes out on the side of the road. The forklift takes the grapes from the tractors and bins and pours the grapes into the back of the semi-truck. So, since the neighbors didn't want us on their property we came up with a new plan. Park the semi-truck on the narrow two lane road that we live on. Yeah we would be blocking the street, but we really had no other choice.



I hear the rooster crowing in the distance and it's so cold I can barely feel my toes. (Insert Beck laughing as she reads this because it was probably like 54 degrees outside.)

The sun is rising and I see these amazing people who work so hard so early in the morning. The tractor moves forward as the pickers fill their buckets full of grapes. When the bucket is full they dump the bucket of grapes into bins.



I stand in awe of these people and my appreciation grows. Being a banker I have opened up many accounts for laborers and have heard their stories. To see them out here knowing that they have come all the way from another country to pick my grapes is amazing. They live these simple lives and many live together under one roof, sharing finances and administering real community. I see them picking our grapes and imagine how they made a dangerous journey from Mexico to experience the American dream. An American dream where for every dollar they make they can support their family in Mexico with 13.5 pesos because the the exchange rate is 13.5 to $1. I watch them and I see how they work as a unit and it is like they are members of a sports team, eaching performing their roles.


I was thinking about how I would have harvested if I did not have them to hire. I would probably have gotten a group together and assigned them a row of grapes, promoting that they work alone. But these people who truly understand teamwork and community, understand that it is more productive to work as a unit rather than individually.



 
Us Americans sometimes think that to be successful we need to make it on our own and that community is what happens when you go to church, watch the forth of July fireworks or keep in contact on facebook. In my opinion, as I sit and watch these workers eat their breakfast together in my backyard, I see that those examples are not real community.


Their foreman takes care of them and provides a food truck that feeds them breakfast and lunch.  I sit and observe and think about how these interactions can teach me how I can establish better community with my family, my church and my friends.


I can't explain it, but it is so awesome to see how in today's struggling economic times, while large corporations are laying off thousands of employees so they can make more profit and the top 5 people in the orgainization can make bigger raises and bonuses. And here we are, a simple middle class family who doesn't make a lot, has just employed 30 people for a day to pick our grapes. To me that is kind of a nice thought! We risked so much and have worked so hard the last few months with little return, but because of what we did and gave up, we can provide these people a day's wages and in return they are helping us harvest our grapes. I believe that is what America should really be about!




I asked a friend this week what she thought about our new home and lifestyle. She said, "I think you have guts, but I think your wife has more guts than you because she is going along with this crazy idea." I could not agree more! I believe the life we choose is in the risks we take. Sometimes you just have jump! There are dreamers and there are movers and shakers. I have always been a dreamer and have learned how to be a mover and shaker. It also helps to have a wife who sometimes is a voice of reason, but also wants to go along for the adventure.

-JP