My mom sent me this video in one of the many, many, many emails she sends me each week. Mom is one of those sweet retired ladies who sees every “forward” (as I call them) as a potential source of new and great wisdom and actually reads them all. She does. Then she lovingly decides who would benefit from which and forwards them on. I finally told her, “Please don’t be offended, but I honestly don’t have time to read them all and usually I just delete them.” Mom then developed a code that tells me which ones have personal notes to me inside them so I don’t delete the ones where she is actually asking or telling me something. (And my friends wonder where I get my analytical tendencies.) But sometimes the subject lines intrigue me and I admit to looking at a select few. Today I got this one called “Farmers Tribute: So God Made A Farmer” from Farms.com:
I have to say I have enjoyed some of Paul Harvey’s monologues or diatribes over the years. I’m sad that he’s gone; while I did not always agree with him, I did respect him as a news-person. And frankly he was a comforting voice and reminder of what my mom would call the good old days (which my grandma always told me were not really so good.) The narrative of this video piece is a bit too religious for my personal taste, but I get the sentiment for farmers and I’m sure many people will love its references to God and his/her love for the farmers. Now that I am closer to farmland and farming than I ever dreamed I would be, I see a lot more of what goes into it, and I would not even pretend to think I truly have more than an inkling. What I have witnessed while driving around country roads or overheard at the local coffee shop or listened to Wanda’s farming and farm-worker friends talk about is still impressive: work that never ends but simply shifts from one crop or harvest to the next, dealing with Mother Nature’s inconsistencies and turmoil, or simply hard and often back-breaking work. The sometimes poetic description in the video is probably a good representation of what the farming life involves. I respect it. It is humbling; not only for the amount of work that most modern workers would not willingly sign up for, but also for what it means to the rest of who just wake up and know there is going to be fresh food at the supermarket or farm stand with very little thought about what it takes to get it there. What must it feel like to be a farmer and knowingly work to feed people? Rewarding? Unappreciated? Where would we be without them?
What jumped out at me in watching it and maybe it did for you too, is…with one exception right in the beginning, all of these farmers are white. What the hell? This video certainly was not filmed around here. The Central Valley has a lot more diversity in their farmers. I’m sure there is still a preponderance of farm owners that are white, but there are plenty of farmers that are more diverse than this little “slice of Americana” would have you believe. Also, if we step away from the idea of who actually owns the farm since in many cases even around here that could be a corporation, where are the actual farm workers in this video? Can most farms be worked by just dad+mom+2 kids these days? I don’t think so. When I drive around here, the workers I see farming lettuce, almonds, cotton, corn, and more include a lot more brown faces than white ones. Can you say Cesar Chavez? Why don’t the brown people show up in the film?
I admit I’m going off half-cockadoodle-dooed here. This is not a piece I spent a week researching for you; I’m just calling it like I see it and videos or commercials like this that want us to pretend all the farmers are white hetero-normative family units is ridiculous. I tried to figure out how old the video piece is. According to Farms.com YouTube channel it looks like they made the video and posted at in June 2011. The Paul Harvey voice-over may be years older (it’s credited in several places as being from an essay he delivered in 1978 to the National FFA), but the video’s photographic images are what bugged me. Where are the Latino/Portuguese/Black people in this picture? The queers? Yes…there are LGBT farmers out there. How about women farmers (that are not standing next to their Central-Casting-looking husbands)? One of the toughest people I know around Chowchilla is an amazing woman farmer. I did look up a couple statistics and found a graph from a report by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (2007) that showed tremendous growth in both women and Hispanic farmers. While White male farmers have been the traditional operator, growth by non-Whites and females have been outpacing for several years.
I guess before I drive my blog “tractor” over the edge here, I really just want to say that I’m tired of the misrepresentation. It is easy to blame the media and the corporations and whomever else we like to blame for that kind of thing. But it is up to us to question it. I am one of those people who proudly wore a button around San Francisco for like 10 years that said “Question Authority.” You’re probably not surprised by that; since then I’ve learned to expand that to “Question Everything.” In these days of CGI usage in daily commercials and government cover-ups and hypocritical evangelist ministers with mistresses and/or tapping their feet for boy-sex in public restrooms, and magazines photo shopping cellulite off of everyone over 15 so we all think we are supposed to be something we’re not….yes. Question Everything. If something doesn’t look or sound right to you, like a charming little video about farming that tries to sell you a load of bullshit and subliminally or brazenly shows you that perfect picture of farming is a white opposite-sex type of family where everyone’s hair blows in the breeze, don’t buy it. Get mad. Challenge things. Do some research and find out the truth. If you are reading this then you have the power at your fingertips. Farming is not, nor has it ever been, just for white people.
You can find Pamela’s blog here…Queer Femme In The Country