It was just a normal morning and my husband had gone for his usual early morning walk, with our dogs up the lane. I popped into the kitchen to deposit the breakfast dishes. Then I saw the outline of Chico our little rescue dog on the doorstep. He had not wanted to leave a "doggy" treat he was guarding and so my husband and our other dog had gone for the walk on their own.
Chico loves his walks so I took him to the gate and we followed up the lane to catch up with the others. On the way back, we noticed the workers in the fields picking the newly ripened Spanish onions.
It started me thinking, do people when they are shopping in the supermarkets actually know how their fruit and vegetables arrive there?
The region of Murcia where we live is abundant in agriculture; much of what is grown in the region is then exported to Europe. When you look at a reasonably priced iceberg lettuce or a piece of broccoli, have you any idea how it got to the supermarket?
Every single baby plant is put into the soil by hand. No majestic machine, ploughing through the fields. But workers from Africa and South America, their backs continually bent, robotically potting plant after plant.
With the blessing of the sun and the regular watering, six weeks later they are back, collecting the harvest they helped create.
With the broccoli pickers, they have huge white cones strapped to their backs as they cut and throw the broccoli over their shoulders into the cones. The lettuce pickers cut the lettuce and pack in plastic bags putting them onto a conveyor belt leading into the trucks. The same truck that leaves the fields and delivers to the supermarkets.
It sounds like slave labor but in fact is it something that I admire in these people. They work here because it means they can send money home to their families. More money than they ever could earn in their own country. Their power and stamina is courageous, because most of us would not last an hour in the heat and changing conditions.
Murcia is a garden in Spain as is Valencia and we are truly blessed with the freshness of everything that is grown locally, oranges and lemons grow like weeds, there are so many of them. We eat everything when it is in season. Just as it used to be before the masses decided, they needed everything on demand.
Locally near Aguilas, we grow many varieties of tomatoes, planted in large plastic greenhouses. Workers in the greenhouse cope with temperatures in the 40sº. Now in May the nectarines are ripening. Soon the cherries will come and in June the melons, large juicy watermelons with vibrant red inners, also soft aromatic honeydew melons, finally culminating in August and September with the grape harvest.
Everything tended and cared for by hand and then when ready collected by hand. Wonderful pictures of women wearing huge brimmed hats to keep the glare of the sun away from them. Men and boys, carrying their blue lunch boxes brought from home. Filled with huge chunks of bread, cheese and meat. A meal truly earned.
The tables of Spain groan with wonderful produce, and yet, none of it would be there if not for the hands of the field workers. So the next time you handle a lettuce, smell a tomato or simply peel an onion, remember it was delivered to you by hand.