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RE: Re: coffee grounds

  • Subject: RE: [cg] Re: coffee grounds
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com
  • Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 17:33:10 -0500

Lookit. On weekends I sometimes fill in behind the bar of a restaurant where I work with these great wide-backed Mexican and Central American guys. You go into any restaurant kitchen in NYC (Italian, Chinese or haut Francais) and you'll find these guys who, because of where they have been are grateful for the country where they have come.  If anyone asks who is building America, it is these guys and their families.
Their wives and kids often use our garden and sometimes, when the guys have some time off from their 70 hour weeks, they'll sit with their families, smoke and have a drink or two out of paper bags. When I see their faces, I remember those of my refugee European parents. It's a great life if you don't weaken.    
With my lousy Spanish and their remarkably good English, we've had some interesting conversations about "organic" as it is practiced by our overseas trading partners. Yep, the pesticides are killers, but the stories I've heard about organic farms in Mexico and "organic" banana plantations in Central America  made some of my remaining hairs curl in terms of working conditions, the ex-death squad leader padrons who think that we're crazy with this organic stuff, but will sell it to a buyer for a premium, and the norte americanos who fly in to check on the chemicals in the produce while walking over  dying campesinos... it's surreal stuff out of novel like "Catch 22". This is why, when I can, I buy from farmers at my local greenmarket, especially the ones who act civilly with the Spanish speaking folks they bring with them to do the bull work.  
Now there are probably some fine organic farms and gardens in the third world, where everything is as bright and beautiful as the packages the produce comes in, and life may be as sweet as the alternative folk music that almost drowns out the sound of the cash registers - that place in Argentina that you talked about may be one - but guaranteed, in the lion's share of instances...if the price is higher for the organic produce, the store made a good cut, the lions share went to the middlemen, a few more pennies for the owners and zip for the campesinos.
When one of the Central American guys showed up one morning before work to get a garden key at the Clinton Community Garden, read the garden rules and procedures in Spanish translation and got his key, like everybody else, including the "perfumados" ( yuppies) that are in our catchment area - he was kind of shocked that there wasn't an angle or hidden rip-off.  Just a place made nice for everybody.  And he's real good about picking up his cigarette butts, and though dead tired he somtimes helps us garden.  His wife is on the list for a plot and we've all had a grand time watching their kids learn to walk and grow.
On July 4th, like all of us, he brought in beer, some food and proudly took his turn at the barbecue grill, spent some time with his kids - at 70 hours a week, any time is quality time, and said, lying back in the grass at the end of the day, probably because he heard the phrase at the Italian restaurant he works in, "who's better than me?" His wife, who works as hard, at home, was holding her sleeping baby in her arms, and her older kid, too tired to run or pee in the roses, was nodding off with a piece of watermellon in his fist.
Their eyes widened when they saw one of our local cops take a turn at the barbecue grill ( they've dealt with death squads and this was a large paradigm shift.) The garden was festooned with American flags and banners and my lay back in the grass, and said, again, "Who better than me?"
Best wishes,
Adam Honigman
Volunteer, Clinton Community Garden

-----Original Message-----
From: John Verin [mailto:jverin@Pennhort.org]
Sent: Thursday, January 30, 2003 3:54 PM
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Subject: RE: [cg] Re: coffee grounds

While I buy organic, shade grown, coop, ohhhhhh soooo politically correct coffee from Cafe Mam,   
I hope you are making this statement lightly. People who grow and pick coffee for corporate plantation owners suffer, and suffer bad. Pesticides can be sprayed by plane while the workers are in the field, pay is pathetic, living conditions often unsound and unsanitary, no health insurance, no benefits or other worker comp or protection.
Take nothing for granted, ever, especially a cup of coffee.
If this rubs any of you the wrong way, look deeper within. 

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