Skip to main content

Tom Rivers cuts cabbage

By Howard B. Owens

This weekend, Tom Rivers delivered another in his series of farm work articles for the Daily News.

Again, it's a stunning piece of writing and reporting. We could never summarize if for you in a way that would do it justice. You will need to find a copy of the paper for yourself and read it.

Besides producing a fine article, I admire Tom for sticking with such a physically demanding job under adverse conditions for a full 10 hours.

The article makes the point well that if you like -- as Jack Davis apparently does -- that there are locals ready, willing and able to do this farm work, but they're just being pushed out of the way by immigrants, you're deluded.

Darren, 42, seems a little bewildered by my interest in the job. He can't remember anyone from around here ever wanting to cut cabbage. The farm puts many ads in local newspapers seeking field help, and no locals have even called about a job in at least two decades, Darren said.

Cutting cabbage may not be "skilled" labor as we traditionally define it, but you better have the right muscles and motor skills developed, and have built some level of mental immunity to the demands of the job. This is a job that not just anybody can do. Clearly, farmers can't just hire a crew of anybody off the street and expect to fulfill the tons of orders for their crops.

Rivers is doing a good bit of public service journalism with this series.  We wish him well in the appropriate journalism awards competitions.

Of course, what these stories lack are video. We've offered the Daily News help in this regard. So far, they've declined.

june rowcliffe

I thought I did add a comment but don't know where it is. Out there somewhere. Tom Rivers has written several great articles on farm related harvesting. Some of which I can relate to. Over 60 years ago, I have topped onions, picked up potatoes, tomatoes, picked berries, cherries, baled hay and hoed corn. I know it is back breaking work. It gave me money to buy school clothes and maybe something extra that I would not have had otherwise. I don't envy anyone out in the field, rain, sleet, snow, mud and all. June from Elba

Aug 17, 2008, 6:13pm Permalink
Daniel Jones

Darren completely debunks Davis' point, Americans are not lining up to do the work that migrant workers (many of then foreign) are desperately needed to do. If the crops don't get picked, then the food doesn't make it to the market and prices soar. We NEED to increase the amount of Visas and greatly expand our guest worker program so farmers can get the help that they need....thats whats coming from the farmers themselves, I'm not sure where Mr. Davis is getting his information from.

Aug 17, 2008, 6:27pm Permalink
daniel cherry

I remember planting cabbage on a farm in east oakfield.It seemed like it would be easy.When that sun came up on that muck it was blazing hot.All i had to do was keep putting the cabbage on the planter wheel.I have so much respect for those fieldworkers.The feed us all.We'd be done if it weren't for them.We need the migrant workers.And to help the farmers.Thank you workers and farmers who are very special people.Our lifeline....dan

Aug 17, 2008, 7:25pm Permalink

Authentically Local