From the Right



A time to harvest gratitude for farmers

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

VISALIA, Calif. -- Whenever this country mouse comes home to Central California, as I did recently to speak to citrus farmers, one thought comes to mind:

"How is it that a nation like ours -- founded not by politicians but by farmers -- finds it so difficult to show the proper respect for farming?"

A holiday set aside for us to be thankful and indulge our palate seems like the perfect time to show gratitude to those who supply the bounty. Or as Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, puts it: "If you criticize farmers, don't do it with your mouth full."

If there's one thing for which Americans should be grateful, it's that we don't have to depend on other countries for our food supply. If there are two things, it's that there are still people who will do the hard and dirty job of picking crops -- even if we have to import them.

Who are these folks? Not the 22-year-old barista at Starbucks with dreams of writing a screenplay.

Take it from someone who grew up on his grandfather's ranch, I get it. Times change. Families evolve. People leave the farm. Many of us live in cities and raise kids who think vegetables come from supermarkets.

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Don't laugh. My Harvard roommate, who was from New York City, once asked what time of year we pick raisins.

Hint: We don't pick raisins. We pick grapes, and the sun does the rest.

But just because many Americans have abandoned the farm doesn't mean they should also abandon common sense about farming. For instance, no matter what you hear from populists on the right and the left, it is not true that most farmers exploit workers to maximize profits. That's how you go out of business.

This Thanksgiving Day, let's remember that farming remains a thankless profession.


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