By Maria A. Ditchek

I now have a flourishing vegetable garden, my first. Tomatoes, peas, onions, green beans, lettuce, zucchini, peppers, lima beans, cucumbers and various miscellaneous herbs. What a pleasure seeing first the blossoms on the vines and then the fruit. It took a bit of time to get it to this state of abundance, but abundance I have.

Picture4Every morning I take a peak to see what can be picked on that day and I choose my dinner menu accordingly. We’ve had a number of delicious stir-fry meals, tomato salads, and sautéed zucchinis, not to mention fried zucchini blossoms, which I’ve had the pleasure of sharing with our friends. The garden, the fruits and the sharing are simply wonderful – it’s just beautiful and I love it.

This morning, while I was picking my beauties, bent over the various raised beds the way my mother always said never to do as it is so unlady-like, I couldn’t help but think of the bountiful produce that we enjoy daily. Not the small quantities from my garden, which will be seasonal and by October will all be gone, but the bounty picked by the scores of farmers and farm workers. The variety of food that we have year round, no matter what the weather.

I tire after 30 minutes of stooping in the hot sun, yet the farm workers do it on a daily basis. The resident farmer at least has the luxury of staying put, while the transient picker must go from farm to farm year round. My back aches, my shoulders stiffen, my legs get tight and my hands get dirty and all I have is a 15’ x 15’ garden. I tried to imagine what it would be like to do this work as my livelihood, in hot summer weather, all day long bent over picking vegetables, sweating, shooing away the bugs that are so abundant, all for a lower than poverty wage; I could not. It’s not an art; picking vegetables for these workers is a necessity. It is insuring that vegetables are put on their own table as well.

So, I do have a greater appreciation for all farm workers. Especially for the 1 to 3 million migrants who leave their homes to harvest our crops. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. It’s only through an accident of birth that I’m not one of them. I promise to never again complain when the cost of zucchini is $1.59 a pound or strawberries cost $3.50 a pint.~