Visiting farms in real life is really something I could not have prepared myself for even if I tried. I expected rows of neatly planted plants, sprouting uniformly from the ground, but instead marveled at fields of drooping and dying plants, exploding with the last of the season’s fruits and vegetables. I expected serious, stoic farmers with gruff voices, but we were greeted by Eddie Alvarez and Lon Inaba, who were both passionate and enthusiastic about their work, and they willingly answered any questions we had and didn’t hold back from telling us about their lives and their families. I never expected my takeaway to be summarized in two words: passion and aspirations.
The amount of passion and dedication to their work was truly inspiring. Both farmers told us their stories of how farm work had been their way of life and then became their passions. They both came from immigrant families, Alvarez from Mexico and Inaba from Japan. They had immigrated to the US to find work and better lives. Their parents started with nothing, but they worked incredibly hard to make sure they could provide for their families. There were obstacles like unfair sharecropping and land-owning laws and Japanese internment that caused them to lose everything, but they overcame. They worked hard and passed on their dedication, perseverance, and ingenuity to their kids who carried on the family business and have grown their family farms into successful and wonderful businesses that bring fresh produce to communities in Washington.
In listening to these stories out in the middle of a field or a production plant, it became clear that farming is a job just like any other career, in that it requires just as much passion and dedication to pursue, if not more. Learning about their long work days, the communities they belong to, the innovations they have come up with, and the hopes they for both their individual farms and the agriculture industry in the future tells me how much they truly love what they do.
As an environmental science major, one of the coolest parts of visiting both Alvarez Farms and Inaba Farms is that we got to see sustainable and environmental agriculture practices being used in real life. Techniques I had learned about from textbooks and class lectures, like drip irrigation, crop rotation, alternatives to pesticides, and composting, were there for us to see in person. It made me excited and hopeful to see that farmers were proudly using these practices to make their farms not only more efficient but also more environmentally friendly, all so they could make better produce to give to the community.
Being on the farms and seeing the workers and the farmers’ passions really inspired me. Their messages about working hard, being “discriminating consumers”, and respecting the land resonated strongly with me and I know that I will carry the things I’ve seen and heard on this immersion trip with me for the rest of my life.
-Jennifer Ng, Rural Immersion 2018