(This post was originally written in Spanish by Reyna as a reflection for the first CSA newsletter of the New Year, however, we found Reyna’s profound reflection something we wanted to share for all our community of supporters (those far and near). We are grateful for the diligent translation to English by Director of Farm Education Erynn Smith).
Hi everyone! As you all know I’m Reyna Ortega, and I’m the farmer with Join the Farm!, a program of the Abundant Table. I’d like to share with you some of the emotions I experienced this past month resulting from the explosion (click here to learn more about the chemical explosion that impacted our farm).
The explosion took us completely by surprise. As you know we’re not agricultural experts but we continue to learn and get better every day. For me, the explosion left me with my hands tied and feeling very personally affected. Over these past few years the farm has turned into more than work for me. It’s my inspiration and has changed my life. It’s a movement that has changed the way we value our food and changed the way we value the people that grow our food. It’s a movement that values and cares for our earth and our community.
I spent many years as a farmworker on conventional farms. Coming to Join the Farm! [The Abundant Table] as a conventional farmworker it was very difficult to understand this “way.” When I talk with my friends and family about our farm and our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) they don’t understand for what or why we should care for the earth if everyone else contaminates the earth. We live in a world where these values don’t have value; where broken systems make us part of them.
When I began working [for The Abundant Table] at Join the Farm! I was presented with different values. They told me, “WE ARE A NON-PROFIT FARM WITH A MISSION OF JUSTICE FOR THE EARTH, FOOD, WORKERS, AND COMMUNITY-those are our values.” “They’re crazy!!” I thought. After three years being part of this farm of course I now know very deeply what these values mean. What happened with the explosion took all of us by surprise.
Beginning our winter season we plant all the vegetables we will harvest in February. We’re going to see those winter crops very affected in the next couple of months. The day of the explosion when they told me that I had to leave the farm the first thing I thought was, “When will we return?” That day we had our CSA harvest and I had to irrigate our crops. The farm is like a child, actually more like a baby that’s totally dependent on me. It doesn’t have hands to be able to drink water. I was very worried because the work of a farm requires so many things and is a process like care giving for someone.
The days after the explosion were long, but every day I asked God to make everything better. A few days later we had a team meeting to discuss what was happening and they told me that we couldn’t return to the farm until the farm tests came back cleared. Truthfully I felt anguished for my plants and still not being able to be on the farm. I was in agreement with not harvesting and selling the crops, but for what reason wouldn’t they let me at least work in the field?
When you grow up in poverty, injustice, and oppression they become a normal part of life. The day after the explosion I was driving on highway 126 near the accident and saw many farmworkers working. I thought, “Why do they get to work and I don’t?” Many people that work in the field suffer from burns on their skin. They’re told the burns are caused by rotting vegetables. Truthfully these past weeks I’ve felt incredibly guilty for not suffering alongside those farmworkers. I have felt so blessed, loved, and cared for. It is a privilege to be a part of this organization that has shown that it truly values and fights for justice.
Even though we completely depend on our produce sales to sustain our farm business we decided to be 100% sure that no one would be harmed on our farm or from our produce.
For me, that’s incredible and admirable. It’s an honor for me to be a part of this farm.
I have so much to be thankful for from this organization. Mainly I’m thankful to have a job filled with dignity and pride. A job that does so much good in the community and is changing the way we grow and eat food. A job that inspires me to continue educating myself. A job that has taught me not just what mission driven work means but that mission driven work is truly possible.
Last week we returned to the farm and had our first harvest after the rains. There’s a saying that after the storm comes the calm. Let me tell you that working after the rain is the hardest kind of work. There will be weeds for months to come and in the next few weeks the work will be crazy. I can assure you there won’t be much calm! But I want to tell you that it will be a pleasure working for you all on the farm these next few weeks. I am so thankful to have found this farm as my place of work.
I also want to thank you CSA community. I want to give you infinite thanks for believing in us and continuing to support us in difficult times. Thank you for making it possible to continue our mission. Above all thank you for being a part of this mission because it’s not just us making these positive changes it’s all of you that are a part of our CSA community.
WE ARE ALL JOIN THE FARM!
Thank you for changing my life and my family’s life.
Happy New Year!
(In addition to being a stellar Farm Manager, Reyna was awarded the 2014 Pacific Coast Business Times Latino Business Award in Agriculture. Reyna is a passionate advocate for farm worker rights and dignity and frequently speaks publicly on the issue, including at the 2014 Social Justice Fund’s Currents of Change event where she preceded keynote speaker and fellow advocate for farm worker, actor Martin Sheen)