Too Posh To Pick
Now no one living in 'advanced' countries reliant on high science and technology and a different type of service industry is interested in going back to the past when work required not only cerebral function but hard physical labour. So farmers work hard to put in their crops, and they're doing so on a larger scale than ever before, and when harvest time comes around there's no one willing to put in the hours to pick tender crops that aren't amenable to mechanical gathering.
That's where countries in Europe and North America began to look elsewhere for field labour, to countries whose economies weren't burgeoning as theirs were, where people were glad of the opportunity to go abroad, virtually as indentured labour, to earn more money through the sweat of their brow in a foreign country than they could working equally hard in their home countries.
Some stayed in the foreign country as labourers, others worked the season with temporary work permits then returned home with the wherewithal to support their families' needs until the following year when harvest time would beckon them once again. And since these labourers were poor peasants they were treated as such, not much thought given to the inadequacy of their living arrangements, their food, the medical needs.
Nasty first-world exploitation of third-world need. And although we're conscious enough of the situation, and things have improved somewhat through public pressure, the same syndrome pertains where workers from Mexico, for example, are brought in to Canada to bring in crops that need to be handled carefully by hand.
It's interesting to read that Britain's National Farmers Union has declared a real danger that summer crops may be left unharvested, as migrant workers normally relied upon to bring them in at the end of the growing season are going elsewhere for their seasonable employment. One wonders where the spirit of enterprise is among these people. And why students looking for summer employment cannot be enticed to do some of the work - for decent accommodation and wages.
"There is no getting around the fact that manual harvesting is very physically demanding. You are out in the fields, bending down, and it might be raining or it might be really hot," said a spokeswoman for one farm. "And the fact is that strawberries have to be picked by hand, there is no machine that can do it."
Quite. Have they attempted the clever tactic that smaller, more urban-centred fruit farms have utilized, persuading happily gullible consumers to bring their family along for an afternoon of fun in the sun, picking their own berries for a reduced cost? The family that picks together, after all, consumes them together in sweet harmony.
Obviously, there's a run on available foreign fruit pickers. Either that or they're sick and tired of the burdens placed upon them for inadequate recompense. The lack of thought to their well-being. The long absences from loved ones. Perhaps some countries are becoming more aware of their need to offer better working conditions for migrant workers, encouraging those workers to leave behind the countries that don't much care about them.
Perhaps growers should be re-thinking their strategies. Perhaps city folk should begin to appreciate the farming community's efforts at feeding them in a new light.