The Oranges are Rotting in the Creosote Bins: toutes ces changes, toujours les memes choixes
Easter Sunday, 2020
Member blog by Andrew Orlans
The title is a line from Woody Guthrie's song "Deportee" of "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos". John McCutcheon tells us that Woody wrote it on January 29, 1948 in response to a newspaper article in which the three crew members and one INS agent's names were given, but the 28 immigrant field workers were nameless and described as "deportees". John McCutcheon's version of the song may be heard using this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxsPL4uEo34. He and Carlos Rescoigne and Tim Hernandez unearthed the names of the 28 anonymous exploited and forgotten crop workers who were buried in a mass grave in the Catholic Cemetary in Fresno, the nearest town to the crash site in Los Gatos Canyon. The cemetery had been closed for lack of space since 1967 and McCutcheon tells the story about how the grave was found and a collective marble head stone naming all the deceased was erected on Labor Day, a year later.
Pete Seeger frequently performed this song and that is the version I first heard. The verses sung in Spanish was my first exposure to the Spanish language. The song is powerful in that the sweetness of the melody and gentleness of the music is juxtaposed with the brutality and harshness of the conditions depicted in the lyrics.
More recently Ani DiFranco and Ry Cooder have recorded the song and their You Tube video contains stirring black and white archival photographs.
"The oranges are rotting in their creosote bins". In other words it was common practice for the California citrus growers to destroy "surplus" crops in order to prevent their poor employees and other folks from being able to eat the crop. The inhumanity and moral depravity of the economic system by which the land owners' actions are justified is still very much in place. Creosote is a petroleum derivative and the capitalist industrialized agribusiness is heavily tied to fossil fuel extraction, not only to destroy surplus crops, but for the chemical fertilizer and the diesel fuel to run the buses, planes, tractors and trucks used to ship the produce and workers.
After you have listened to one or more versions of "Deportee" please read the lead article in the New York Times, "Empty Shelves, But Farms Put Food to Waste: Milk, Eggs and Produce Buried and Dumped" by David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery. The authors chose to ascribe the blame to "another ghastly effect of the pandemic" that "forced them to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they can no longer sell." Those of us who grew up with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger's version of the song know that what is exposed is the inhumanity and moral depravity of the economic system and that it is not the fault of some bug in the air. "The amount of waste is staggering…3.7 million gallons of milk every day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 eggs every week." Some food has been donated to food banks, "but there os only so much perishable food that charities with limited numbers of refrigerators and volunteers can absorb."
With the widespread unemployment and economic hardship faced by massive numbers of people one would think that some mechanism could be found to give the food away to lessen the hardship. No, our $1,200 checks, when and if they come, will have to be spent at going market rates to preserve the high prices we are accustomed to pay for our food. Instead of people going through the inefficient process of ordering food online to be packed in one of Mr. Bezos's warehouses or or stores and delivered to our door by underpaid "contract" workers who have no benefits and are not subject to federal labor laws would it not make more sense for all military personnel "civilian, active duty and reserve" to be brought home from overseas and out from behind their desks in the Pentagon to work of the logistical problem of distributing food to the population for free?
"Even as Mr. Allen and other farmers have been plowing fresh vegetables into the soil, they have had to plant the same crop again, hoping the economy will have restarted by the time the next batch of vegetables is ready to harvest. But if the food service industry remains closed, then these crops, too, may have to be destroyed." The authors of the article present the farmers as victims of economic forces beyond their control, but it is their moral choice to prefer to destroy their crops rather than to give it away and prevent the unseemly sight of hungry Americans lining up for handouts or bread lines as happened in the 1930's.
The long standing policies of the Department of Agriculture contribute to this crisis: massive amounts of our tax dollars are spent "bailing out" or subsidizing, the profits of large scale industrial food producers who produce food as commodities to be traded on the international market and to feed the populace. This food is heavily processed and of limited nutritional value and contains various health endangering residues of animal and human manure, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.
We live in a world of bacteria and viruses. Hand sanitizers and surgical masks are meant to stop cross contamination and are of limited utility is stopping the spread of viruses and bacteria. My mother was almost killed by a bacteriological and viral infection contracted in a hospital when she had an allergic reaction to a course of antibiotics. She had colitis and all of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the stomach and intestines were killed off, leaving her unable to digest food. She was fed through an IV drip for 6 weeks while her body very slowly recovered it's ability to digest different foods by reconstituting its supply of the specific bacteria and enzymes needed to digest different types of food. The first food that she was given were milk cultures like yoghurt and acidopholus.
Numerous national laws and federal policies are designed to make it very difficult to obtain unpasteurized milk. We are fed the myth that "cleanliness is next to godliness" and that the world is full of dangerous pathogens which can only be combatted by having our milk sterilized. At the time that Louis Pasteur was working on his process to sterilize milk the general sanitary conditions on farms were abysmal and his scientific advance represented a step forward in public health and nutritional safety. What is not widely known is that the nutritional value of pasteurized milk and dairy products and cheeses is compromised by the pasteurization process, not to mention the taste. In the state of Virginia two bills have recently been introduced aimed at making it even more difficult to obtain raw milk and milk products. The only legal way to obtain raw milk is to purchase "cow-shares", which I have done with Crowfoot Farm in Rappahannock County.
We should grow as much of our own food as possible and make ethical choices about that which we must buy in. Many companies play the "sustainable", "ethically raised, organic" card in order to market their products and there is a good deal of mass marketed delusion between the pretty pictures and words on the packaging and the grim realities behind how the food made it to the shelf. This is the subject which Allie Granger was to have spoken about on May 10th, but her platform has had to be rescheduled for the fall. I have several boxes of literature from the Animal Welfare Institute about food labeling and farm animal issues as well as other battles they are engaged in regarding the Endangered Species Act and lessening the suffering of animals used in biomedical research.Members wishing to grow their own food without access to suitable land are invited to explore the possibilities at the Brookes Corner Biodynamic Community Farm, which sits on 3.14 acres of Swampoodle loam with two ponds in northern Fauquier County. The address is 7463 John Marshall Hwy, Marshall, VA and of course children and pets are welcome and they can come help plant seeds and harvest vegetables and herbs and collect eggs and feed the chickens and ducks.