Farmer John Writes: A Murder, A Baby and A Ghost
Harvest Week 1, Deliveries of June 20th – 24th, 2023
Welcome to our 2023 season!
The weather this spring was quite cold early on, and prevented us from planting some of our crops in a timely way. However, many of the crops have been springing forth mightily in the past week or so, making for bountiful first boxes.
Coming soon—beets, broccoli, lettuce, kohlrabi, in addition to many of the crops offered this week.
2023 Shares Are Still Available
Let your friends know we still have pro-rated shares available at www.angelicorganics.com. This is looking like a season they won’t want to miss.
Check Out Our New FAQ’s
We have created a new FAQ’s page for our shareholders with help articles on topics such as how to customize your share, how to reschedule your deliveries, and much more. Be sure to check out the new FAQ’s page. If you have a question, please consult the FAQ’s first before emailing the farm.
Your Membership Account
Shareholders, please get familiar with your membership account, which is where you can view your delivery calendar, set your vegetable and herb preferences, and much more. Note that the FAQ’s are located in the left-hand column in your membership account.
No More Printed Farm News
Alas, after 33 years of publishing Farm News in hard copy, we have decided to discontinue it in paper and only make it available online. It was expensive to print the copies and then time-consuming to attach sleeves to the sides of the boxes and then insert the newsletters into the sleeves.
Also, my wife Haidy had to do two different layouts for the restrictive two pages of hard copy and this blog version with no space constraints.
Sorry if this disappoints you. (It disappointed me, but I can be a realist.)
Our (Your) Farm Workers
The farm has three year-round employees: Eduardo (Pollo), Victor, and my wife Haidy. We also have two mostly year-round employees, Nathan and Amanda. You have probably seen them in action on Facebook or Instagram, or read references to them in Farm News.
Our Legal Temporary-Immigrant Work Program
A lot of the physical work on our farm is powered by H-2A workers—legal, temporary migrants from Mexico who augment the shortage of domestic farm labor in the States. The program is quite the bureaucratic government maze to navigate and sponsor, but without access to these able and willing workers, I doubt we could get the work done here.
When you consider the government-mandated pay rate of nearly $18 per hour, add in housing, use of a van, plus transportation and meals to and from Mexico, the price the farm pays per worker is about $20 per hour. You will notice in the interviews below that the pay our workers can receive in Mexico hovers at around $20 per day. In other words, a day of work in Mexico pays about what an hour of work on our farm pays.
(I will mention a related issue: when consumers buy organic that comes from Mexico, that’s on the backs of Mexican field workers making $20 per day. When you belong to our CSA, our Mexican workers are making $20 per hour.)
I am introducing all seven of our H-2A workers at once in this newsletter, as the individuals are individually important and so is the tapestry of the whole team. Five of them are back from previous years; two are new. One of the newcomers is Mayra, who thankfully is bi-lingual and helped to translate these interviews, as did bi-lingual Victor.
I very much enjoyed interviewing our team. They all have interesting, diverse and often challenging biographies.
As you will note, your membership in our farm helps their lives immensely.
Interview with Jesus—”They Want Our Home”
Jesus, Thank you for being here again this year. Tell me a bit about yourself so we can share it with our shareholders.
I am 26 years old. I am from Cuautitlán Izcalli in Mexico State. I am the youngest of four brothers. My dad died when I was nine years old.
At age eleven, I had to start working to help provide for my family. I also attended school when I was working, but did not graduate.
I got married eight years ago. I have a daughter who is ten years old and a daughter who is six years old. My wife takes care of them when I am here in the States.
Don’t you live in a house that someone is trying to take away from you?
It is a very big problem. There are actually three houses on the property, and my family lives in one of them.
A relative wants to seize the houses and throw us out. My grandpa, who owned the property, was murdered, which probably had something to do with how the property would be passed on. I have invested so much time and money into the property. We do not want to move.
What did you do with the money you made on the farm last year? How has it helped your life?
I hired attorneys to represent me so we can stay in our home. Also, the money will help me build a little store for my wife.
How much can you make a day working in Mexico?
About $20 a day, making deliveries for a 7-11.
There will always be problems. Just work and continue life.
Interview with Maythe—”Ducks Without Names”
Maythe, I love having you back. You are a great worker and a great spirit. Tell me a bit about your life in Mexico.
I live on my family’s farm. We have four hectares [note: about nine acres]. We have a lot of fruit trees, and we raise coffee.
I have 20 chickens and five dogs. The dogs are named Kimba, Nana, Bruna, Momo, and Vakira. I got the names from movies. I have four cats: Gris, Blanca, Pantera, Mapache and two ducks. I also take care of eight cows for my brother. We have fields where we have grass so they can go eat.
Do the ducks have names?
How about the chickens?
So, the dogs have names and the cats have names, but the ducks and chickens have no names. How do you think the ducks and chickens feel about having no names?
I have never thought about it. The chickens don’t have names because I eat them.
I live with my mom in her house. My mom lives alone when I am in the States. She’s scared to be alone.
My mom doesn’t speak Spanish. She speaks Chinanteco, a native language. I am more familiar with Chinanteco. I dream in my language. There are only a few people that speak Spanish in my town.
My town is like a different world; everything is different. There are 2,000 people in the town and everyone knows each other. Its name is Cerro Armadillo Grande Oaxaca.
I am happy in my town, but I could live here in the U.S.
I finished high school. We received help from the government, so I just studied and did not have to work. I started working when I was twenty years old helping with the coffee harvest.
I am independent. I have a four-wheeler. I have most of my money in the bank. I want to buy land and build a house. I want to live in the same town and continue with my animals and my own coffee.
I would like to have a baby. I would like to have only one baby, and my mom can take care of him, and she would not be alone.
Is the baby going to have a name?
Does your farm have a name?
So the farm has no name. The ducks and chickens have no names. But the baby will have a name. How will your farm and the ducks and the chickens feel about this baby with a name, and also your dogs and cats with their names?
I have never thought about this, but now I will.
Interview with Mayra—”No Permits Needed”
Mayra, This is your first year at the farm, but you used to live in the States. Now you are back after being away from the States for how long?
I have been gone for fourteen years. I grew up in Milwaukee, where I learned English.
I now live with my parents in Zinapécuaro in Michoacan. I have two daughters, Larissa who is eleven and Alexa who is six. My parents are taking care of the kids when I am here.
I have been married for thirteen years. My husband is also an authorized temporary worker, like me. He is gone from Mexico eight months a year. He works in landscaping. He is now in Washington. He and I talk every day, and we both talk to our kids every day.
Why did you move back to Mexico when you were a teenager?
My dad got into a very bad accident. He had to return to Mexico, where we have a large extended family who helped to take care of him.
I like my town in Mexico; it is very peaceful.
What are you interested in?
I am curious about life in general. I like to read about history, to read about other countries, about China—how life is in China. I would like to learn German.
Do you picture yourself having a career?
Yes, as a business woman—mole business. My dad has created a mole unlike any other mole. I want to sell his mole. [Note: Mole is a complex sauce popular in Mexican cooking, typically derived from blends of peppers, spices, fruits and seasonings.]
That’s a lot of work to start and run a business—permits, logo, web page, maybe a blog…
No permits are needed in Mexico, no web page, no blog. Just make great mole and word of mouth will make it popular. My dad would take it to nearby villages on his motorcycle.
Tell me a little about your relationship with your cousin, Antonio, for whom this is now his second year here.
Antonio and I have always been best friends. He comes to my room when he is scared of ghosts and hides under the covers.
I have noticed that a lot of H-2A workers are afraid of ghosts.
How will the money you make here help your life?
We want to add a floor to live in above my parents. And we want to buy land nearby for my daughters, so they will always be nearby.
Family is everything. They are always near. Everyone is always looking out for everyone else in the family.
Thank you for bringing me here.
Interview with Antonio—”Ghosts”
Tell me a bit about yourself, Antonio.
I have eleven years together with my wife. I have a daughter named Kenya, nine years old. My brother is like my son; he is fifteen and his name is Enrique. I basically adopted him, because my mother died when he was young.
I was a really spoiled child. I always had what I want I wanted. I went to school, but didn’t finish middle school.
My mom said if I didn’t go to school I had to work, so I started working at a local chicken store. Then things changed more when I got together with my wife, I got more responsible.
My family likes me because I am funny. My wife likes me because I am funny. [Note: Antonio is so funny that he makes all of us laugh throughout the day.]
What’s your thing about ghosts?
Please don’t talk about ghosts. I brought holy water from Mexico to protect me from them.
But you never even talk to them, never try to get to know them. You just run from them. How do you know that they are not on your side?
No, I’m not going to talk to them.
Maybe they are angels. Maybe they are looking out for you. Listen, I’ll help you interview a ghost. We can find out what they are up to.
Fine. Let’s talk about money, then.
When I made money last year, it made my family’s life easier. I could spend more time with my family, and I bought a truck. This year I am buying supplies to build a house.
Interview with Concepcion—”Both Things Now”
It’s nice to have you back, Concepcion. Tell me a bit about yourself.
I live in Oaxaca de Juárez.
Does everyone in that city talk as fast as you?
Just me, I think.
I have been married for 10 years. I have three daughters—18, 16 and 14 years old. My mom and husband take care of them when I am here.
My parents divorced when I was five. At twelve years old, I started helping my mother sell tortillas and tamales.
Life was hard. I would always have to decide between buying one thing or another thing. There was never enough money for both things. Now that I work on this farm, there is often enough money for both things. I do not have to decide between them. I am much freer.
With the money last year, I was able to add rooms onto my mom’s house, where I live with my daughters.
Also, with the money, I want to buy land so I can build a house. And I am also able to do all the payments for my daughters’ tuition at school.
Interview with Ruben—”Starting to Build My House”
Ruben, it’s good to have you back. Tell me a bit about yourself.
I got married when I was 18. My wife’s name is Guadalupe. My son is eight. His name is Braulio. I also have two daughters, Denise and Magali.
I started working when I was eight years old cleaning machines. I had to help the family. I helped my mom sell jam that she made and helped run our little store. I went to high school, but we were so desperate for money, I had to drop out of school and work full time.
Thank you for bringing me here. With the money I made last year, I bought materials for starting to build my house. And I was able to buy a car. In Mexico, I can only make twenty dollars a day.
Interview with Gabriel—”Your Sister Turned Her Cheek”
I notice that you are a very fast worker in the fields. Thank you. Tell me about yourself, Gabriel.
I live in Salvatierra, Guanajuato. I have a daughter who is 18 years old and my son is 16 years old. I am divorced.
I went to the third grade in elementary school and then had to drop out to help my family. I started working at the age of 10 years old in the tomato fields.
I have worked most of my life in the fields. I worked in California for 13 years, from 1990 to 2002, on a farm. I worked in Beloit in 2009. I went back to Mexico in 2009 and haven’t come back to the US until now.
In Mexico, I can make about fifteen dollars a day. Now that I am working here, I can make enough money to finish my house.
In my family, there are nine of us brothers and sisters. I am the brother of Pollo’s wife. [Note: Pollo has worked at Angelic Organics for over 20 years.] I met Pollo many years ago when he got married to my sister, and she had a little party in La Luz where Pollo is from. La Luz is maybe fifteen minutes away from my town, Salvatierra.
I visited Pollo’s family with a friend in La Luz; it was maybe 25 years ago. It is a very ancient town. The men sat on the sidewalks leaning against adobe buildings, wearing their huge somberos and staring at us intently. I don’t know if they had seen Gringos before, at least not for several years, it seemed. They all bid us Adios into our open windows. It was like a song greeting us from the town.
Pollo’s family had a little party for us, a little fiesta. Your sister was there. Did you ever hear about it?
I don’t think so.
I had been living in San Miguel de Allende a couple hours away from La Luz, a very international town where people greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks, even casual acquaintances. I was so used to this way of greeting or departing that, when I was leaving the party in La Luz, I went to kiss your sister’s cheek. All the fiesta guests were watching this farewell.
She looked at me horrified and started to turn her face away from me. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just kept going in with my kiss. By the time my mouth got to her face, her head was turned away from me in an attempt to avoid my kiss completely, but by then her ear was turned squarely towards my mouth. I planted a big kiss on your sister’s ear, and all the guests were watching me kiss her ear.
Next time I saw her was years later in the States. She seemed to look at me knowingly, but I’m not really sure. I could ask Pollo about it, but not sure if I want to ask him about kissing his wife’s ear.
Let’s Celebrate Our Workers from the South
Thank you for being part of our farm this season.