Sustainable, mixed-use, fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable, organic, value, community, nutrition . . . any litany of adjectives describing the farm-to-table concept seems to leave out an essential element: the human one. Because food doesn’t actually come from farmer’s markets, it comes from farms, invariably a much less glamorous reality than the rosy Alice Water-esque farmer’s market experience.

 

A red barn in the midst of a brussels sprouts field outside Castroville, CA.

 

The work of farming is an in-your-face reality driving south on Highway 101 through Steinbeck country – the Salad Bowl of the World – Salinas, Gonzales, Soledad, and all those carefully planted acres in between. Mornings are rife with human activity: the highway filled with flatbeds transporting tractors or cases of lettuce and berries, irrigation rigs spraying newly planted fields to the east and palettes of recently harvested produce piled on acreage to the west.

 

The Santa Lucia Mountains are the backdrop to these crates filled with freshly-harvested lettuce on Highway 101 near Soledad, CA.

 

Lest we forget, it’s ultimately people who grow, harvest, and transport our food to the markets and grocers, the most invisible of which are the human faces who are transported to work in long white busses trailing porta-potties and potable water sinks:

An empty farmworker bus parked next to a strawberry field on Highway 101 near Gonzales, CA.

 

People who wear wide-brimmed hats and scarves even on hot days to protect themselves from road dust and sunburn:

Farmworkers laying irrigation hose in a lettuce field outside Castroville, CA

 

People who put in an honest day’s work bent over picking strawberries, brussels sprouts, and artichokes, largely unseen by those traveling less than a hundred yards away:

Farmworkers picking strawberries behind a military surplus on Highway 1.

 

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