Workers Matter in Agriculture

I was really struck this week when I read a short article on leaflets being left at Hugo’s groceries in the sugar aisle by union workers currently locked out of the American Crystal plants when the company left negotiations.  The leaflets were pretty basic that just asked customers to go to this website and read up on the issue.

I grew up in East Grand Forks in a union household (my dad was a member of IBEW local 1426) and used to work at Hugo’s myself carrying out groceries, so the lockout is personal to me.  These workers aren’t “those people” I can quickly brush off, but my peers, parents of schoolmates, neighbors, and the people I went to church with.  I never got the impression that sugar beet plant workers were a bunch of overpaid lazybones as you hear on angry AM talk radio all day,  but really modest folks who had to go into work at 11 pm or do these crazy 14-hour shifts through harvest season.  

When reflecting about this and farming, I think Americans tend to overlook workers in agriculture and instead focus on farmers.  We think that agriculture begins and ends with those working the land, proud and heroic farm owner-operators who till the soil and bring in bountiful harvests in the American heartland.  We see this all the time from Chevy truck commercials to every politician talking about the farm bill.  I like that romantic imagery too.  But in that picture we paint of agriculture, every now and then we should stop looking only at the proud farmer in the center of the picture and appreciate the harvest crew or processing plant in the background.  They are just as integral a part of how food gets to the table today.  Without them, the system stops.

Reminders: Our harvest party is this saturday at 6:30.  Also the last box is Friday, Oct. 7.

In the box:
Broccoli Raab: Yes, a crazy green. See recipe.
Fresh Dill: Chop up with the potatoes and some butter or sour cream
A couple green peppers
A butternut squash
A couple Blue Bonnet squashes or a couple Carnival squashes
A pie pumpkin: bake upside down on a pan and use cooked pumpkin in replacement of any of that stuff that comes out of a can
White onion
Edamame: This is the big mess of brown sticks in the box.   You only want to use the pods on the stalk.  Simply boil in salt water for a few minutes, drain, and eat with beer…it’s good.
A mix of carrots
Russet potatoes

Recipe: Sauteed Broccoli Raab
Note: don’t use the center stem of the raab since it gets woody, but use the leaves, small stems, and florets.

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 2large garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt), or to taste

  • Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Cut off and discard 1 inch from stem ends of broccoli rabe. Cook broccoli rabe, uncovered, in 2 batches in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes, transferring with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain well in a colander.

Cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and cook, tossing to coat with oil, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss broccoli rabe with salt.

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