Adventures of an Organic Fruit Tramp
In the late seventies, about the time many people my age were graduating from college, I decided to take up migrant farm work. There were several things that were really great about this type of work.
Travel was something I had always enjoyed and with this job the opportunity to see new places seemed endless. Being from the state of Michigan, following the crops south in the winter and north in the summer was very appealing. The warm winter climate and being surrounded by fresh tree-ripe fruit at all times of the year was almost enough in itself.
The idea of becoming a voluntary peasant seemed like a noble endeavor. Much peace of mind came from reconnecting with the earth and living a simpler, less competitive lifestyle in a rural setting.
The opportunity of working with people of other cultures was enriching. My co-workers were men and woman from other countries both near and far away. With the help of those around me, the Spanish language soon began to sink in.
For one aspiring to the ideal of right livelihood, organic field work is perfect because it provides a basic necessity of life to humanity and does not harm oneself or others in any way.
Best of all was the freedom which came from working the seasons. I was not weighed down by possessions, payments or worries and I was able to roam like a gypsy where ever I chose.
Setting a goal to work with every type of fruit grown on the North American continent, over the next six and a half years I would work over fifty seasonal farm jobs. From the blueberry fields of Maine to the citrus groves in Florida, and from the apple orchards of Washington State to the mango trees and cotton fields in the southern tip of Mexico where I labored as an undocumented farm worker. The adventure went on and on.
Organic farms in the seventies were few and far between, however they could be found here and there if you looked hard enough.
In the mid-eighties, the organic food movement began to gain serious momentum, especially in California, where I found myself in the right place at the right time. By leasing a small date grove, I got started farming, in spite of the fact that I had very little money. Through a series of rented date gardens, our farming operation grew through the years along with the demand for organic produce.
In the nineties, my wife and I bought land with money we made growing dates and planted date palms of our own.
When I first began picking fruit for a living, I never dreamed I would actually own and operate a farm myself, but through persistent hard work, a love for what I was doing, and a little luck, within just a few years, this somehow came to be, almost on its own. Around the turn of the new millennium, when the raw-vegan diet began to grow in popularity, we began selling the majority of our crop directly to the raw food community via mail order. This is how my life in agriculture began over 30 years ago, and the way it has unfolded so far.