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Getting a Glimpse: Three Generations of American Farming

29 Jun Getting a Glimpse: Three Generations of American Farming

On location at Matteoli Brothers farmland in Robbins, CA.

On location at Matteoli Brothers farmland in Robbins, CA. Photo: Chuck Gathard

 

Recently, I sat in a farm shed in California’s Sacramento Valley, trying (and failing) to keep dust, grime and metal shavings from falling into my laptop, lenses and cameras. It was 95 degrees outside and my jeans were smeared with red grease and oil coated my steel-toed boots. Behind me, a farm worker grinded sharp edges on spade shovels. To my left, a mechanic banged his sledge hammer on a wheel stuck to its hub. My nerves were edged, but in that moment I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

You see, I was in the middle of a farm operation run by second-generation sons, who were employing their third-generation sons and daughter and fifty others. Nearby, their youngest grandchild, holding mom’s hand, was learning to walk. Modern U.S. agriculture requires giant, expensive machines. And while these machines help make for highly efficient operations, people – often families of people – still own and oversee the seemingly never ending cycle of till, plant and harvest.

I was there with our video crew to document how their business relies on my client’s lubricants, but really, I got to drop into a family business for a week, to get a passing glimpse into 30 years of grinding hours, ten months out of every year. To hear about their challenges, their narrow escapes and their dreams. You can try to script this, but, unless you smell the pollen on the wind, taste the dirt in your mouth, and feel the rough powerful handshake of a man who pushes against the earth everyday to make it happen, then you just won’t get the story right.

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