Even though I’m the daughter of a field hand, and have my own experiences as a farm worker, I had never been to a “farm”. During my sophomore year, my parents decided to visit my Aunt Alicia and Uncle Jesus. These relatives live on a working farm in Kennewick in the state of Washington.
We drove for hours from Firebaugh, California to Kennewick. The drive was scary, made so by the weather, my Dad’s unfamiliarity with the road and Mom’s panic attacks. It rained off and on the whole trip. Occasionally the rain was a light sprinkle, and at other times, it was a heavy down pour. The big trucks would rush by, throwing up great sheets of water over our car, focused only on their own hurry.
My mom would always exclaim “Dios Mio” (My God) and cover her face. She would implore my dad to stop and wait out the weather. “That’s foolish,” he would say, “it’s going to rain for days.” And on we would go.
The traffic on Interstate 5 flows at a fast clip. My dad seemed to enjoy the speed, so we whizzed along the freeway, yet the trucks always passed us up, with sheets of water splashing over us, almost every few minutes. When Mom’s nerves were just about frayed to pieces, Dad would pull into a rest stop to take a break. The trip was boring and stressful because there was no scenery to enjoy, hidden with the rain, the trucks, and my parents interactions.
Finally, we arrived at the farm. What a shock! There were lots of animals — a large flock of chickens, a smaller one of sheep and three cows. I had never came face-to- face with a cow, or sheep, or chicken. What I learned was that these animals require care, especially since these were food animals. I was blown away when I understood that this is where eggs, cheese, milk and hamburger came from. My farm girl experience was in harvesting vegetables — tomatoes, cantaloupe, chilies — nothing in the way of animals, nor even a pet chick at Easter.
During this visit, my aunt made a farmers cheese. I was appalled, disgusted at the process of curdling milk, letting it ferment, straining out the whey and other ingredients, then adding in ‘stuff’ (the only thing I recognized was salt!). I haven’t eaten cheese since. Everytime I am offered cheese, that’s what I see and smell! In fact, the whole shocking experience was that I have become a confirmed vegetarian — no meat, no chicken, no cheese, no milk, no eggs, no hamburger.
My parents are horrified that I radically changed my food preferences. They don’t understand that I was made so uncomfortable in caring for farm animals, and then killing them for food. I try to explain this to Mom and Dad, but they don’t connect with my protestations. I know they see their efforts in obtaining healthy (in their view) food as providing for me. I see their insistence on their food choices as a lack of understanding. Family meals are a bit strained – Mom makes traditional Mexican dinners (meat, cheese, tortillas, vegetables), and if I refuse to eat it, she tells me that I have to make my own dinner.
To their credit, however, we haven’t visited the farm since then.
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