I worked on a strawberry farm in Argentina back in 2012 because it seemed like a fun thing to do and a cheap way to see other countries. But it turned out to be not only the most boring job I’d ever worked, but the most painful one too. Now I’m no stranger to manual labor. Hell, I thrive on it. Guiding white water rafting trips, Outward Bound, canoeing, sea kayaking, skiing, etc. All those jobs were stressful and super fun of course, but they involved a shit ton strain on the body—lifting and throwing heavy ass boats on and off of trailers, carrying 50 lb.packs on my back for 23 days straight, picking up children a million times a day who’d fallen on the easiest ski slopes because they either sucked at coordination or had shit their pants.
Despite the pain and stress and fatigue, at the end of the day, I loved those jobs. And I don’t regret any of them even though my spine is still out of line from guiding on the right side of my boat for six seasons straight and from lifting people who literally weighed twice as much as I did out of the water and flinging them into my raft. And when I wasn’t doing strenuous outdoor adventure jobs, I was doing construction, waiting tables, or working as a set dresser in the film industry (which means I literally moved furniture all day long). So I’m no sissy when it comes to manual labor.
But picking fucking strawberries in Argentina? Well that was excruciating work. Bending over like that, just half way, all day long, is terrible for your back. After only a few days I started crawling from bush to bush or using a bucket to sit on (which slowed me down a ton). But it still hurt my back, even doing it lazy style. So when people say Mexicans are lazy or that they’re taking American jobs, I just roll my eyes. Americans don’t want those jobs! These farmers pay pennies anyways. And which is it? They’re lazy? Or they take our jobs? They can’t be doing both or that means we’re super fucking lazy.
I have no idea what it’s like working all day in those hot fields in California, doing back-breaking work. I only had to put in six hours a day at my job and it was in a Patagonia paradise surrounded by mountains. And I listened to This American Life podcasts on my expensive iphone, alongside by other priveleged white people from America, France, Germany and Canada, none of whom which needed that stupid job. It was fun for us. It was an adventure. Our lives did not depend on this work and we could leave whenever we wanted. In fact, we weren’t even getting paid! That’s how privileged we were. It was through the WWOOF program, where people let you stay for free on their property and are supposed to feed you organic meals in exchange for your time and labor.
I eventually left because the work was too hard on my back and the food was just shit—at 10pm every night they’d throw a sack of potatoes on the table of our outdoor kitchen and called that dinner. It would take us two hours to cook them on our camp stove because camp stoves aren’t meant for boiling two gallons of water on them. Plus, I was too picky to eat a strawberry and potato diet for the whole damn summer (I hate strawberries anyways), so I’d buy trailmix from the store down the street and subsist of that for every meal. Oh, and our host family’s teenage son was a neo nazi. So i left for Chile, where I got a job teaching English.
The point is, immigrants are the backbone of our country. Do you want food prices to go up cuz there’s no one to pick that shit? I don’t! Do you want to work those jobs yourselves? I sure as hell don’t. And under the trump administration, these folks are starting to become too afraid to show up at work out of fear of being deported now.
The people who pick our food are not rapists and murderers, as The Donald insists. They’re the hardest working people in America and they should feel safe to work the jobs we aren’t interested in anyways.
I miss doing manual labor. But I will never touch a strawberry again if I can help it.