Raúl Durán, a migrant worker for Heberle Farms, picks Golden Delicious apples just after sunrise Oct. 8.
At the last second before I left my house at 6 a.m. this past Tuesday I remembered to grab a pair of boots. I was that close to being completely unprepared to cross a muddy field an hour later as I made my way onto a 50-acre apple orchard in Brockport. I mention this because I really didn’t know what to expect when I left that morning. I wasn’t sure if I’d need boots; I didn’t know what the conditions on the farm would be; I didn’t know how many farmworkers I’d meet; I didn’t know if they would allow me to photograph them; I didn’t know if they’d be willing to talk to me for the audio slideshow I was planning; I was excited to document the apple harvest, but completely unsure about the environment I was walking into.
I ended up collecting several interviews and taking hundreds of photos. I photographed the sun rising and bathing trees, golden apples and the men picking them in orange light. I photographed men talking, laughing and singing. I photographed workers slinging 50-pound bushel bags of apples over their shoulders and climbing ladders to pick hundreds of pounds of fruit, hour after hour.
All this documentation was made possible by the generous and understanding Mexican migrant workers I met. They are men who come to the U.S. on seasonal agricultural work visas so they can send money back to their families and put food on their tables. They aren’t making a lot of money, but they are making far more than they could back home. So even though they miss their families terribly and their hours are long and their tasks strenuous, they are happy to have work. If you’re ever tempted to complain about having to trudge through a little mud, please think about migrant laborers like these who help put food on all our tables.
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