June 17, 2008

From their hands

The sunlight isn't the only beautiful thing contributing to the bounty at Featherstone. The hard-working and dedicated group of men from Mexico, the Gaska brothers, have blown me away with their willing, generous, and dedicated attitudes.

On my first farm visit in the think of winter, before they even knew who I was, they fed me menudo up in their trailer. It was a very kind gesture and I never imagined that months later we'd be to the point where they send me off with a To-Go box of their homemade 'mole' for my road trip to the Twin Cities. One never knows what generosity lies beneath.

The Gasca brothers are from Guanajuato, Mexico, and all have a farm together there. They all have children- many of them - one of them even has 11. Every spring and summer they come to Minnesota in order to make money for their own farm back home. Once in a while, one of them will go back to work on the farm for a few weeks. Currently we are waiting the return of Estaban who is bringing back some much-anticipated cowboy boots for some Featherstone workers, including farmer Jack. The Brothers consist of 5 actual brothers (Saul, Olegario, Salvador, Hugo, Estaban) and 2 cousins (Lupe and Ricardo.)

Saul, pictured above, is the oldest of the brothers; this is very significant as seniority has a much larger role in their culture. He is very well respected and looked up to. This was first made apparent to me as he always gets the first donut pick. Their soft smiles radiate nothing but kindness as we 'gringos' feebly attempt to hone our Spanish skills. They are actually as eager to learn English as we are Spanish and conversations often take the form of teaching each other words in our languages. There are a few phrases that are very important on the farm like, "mas rapido" and "quantos mas?"

Their sense of humor makes the long work hours much, much shorter. Yesterday as we were picking beans for 3 hours in the morning, the guys were laughing, talking, singing, and despite the fact that we had NO idea what they were talking about, it created a more pleasant work environment. It must be the presence of their smiles and constant laughter that gravitates us towards them. If we could pick where we were working for the day, the top choice would be working with the Gaskas. Although they are fun individually, they are most fun when they are all together because they are always cracking jokes at each other - or us. The past few days I have been the butt of the jokes as I decided to wear shorts when we went strawberry picking, and my mud boots while bean picking. Apparently these were hilarious decisions to the guys - and they let me know.

My Featherstone experience, thus far, has been heavily shaped by my interactions with these men, and our farm's harvest is, both literally and figuratively, the fruit of their labor.

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