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Dr Sarah Taber @SarahTaber_bww
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so I guess folks think there's no overlap between "people who talk about farm labor on twitter" and "people who have actually done farm labor"

in honor of this overlap, here are my official rankings of Shittiest to Cushiest Farms Jobs That I Have Personally Experienced
do bear in mind these are heavily tilted towards crop jobs, not livestock jobs, because I am a crops person. A rancher or someone who works in poultry, dairy, hogs, etc would give a very different list.
#1 shittiest farm job: harvesting sweet potatoes. We STILL don't have a good way to do this mechanically. So after we send a plow through to kick the roots to the surface, people gotta go out there & pick them up by hand like peasants bc southern ag's still living in 1018.
Y'all I can't overstress how much this job fucking sucks. It has everything: bending to the ground. Picking up heavy buckets full of sweet potatoes, RUNNING them over to the truck bc you get paid by the lb, making sure not to trip in the 2' deep furrows
& oh btw when you get to the truck you have to THROW that 30lb bucket up to the guy at the top to dump them bc sweet potato farmers use trucks with a 5' bed for some reason

it's hot as fuck, there's no shade, dirt is everywhere, fuck your life, you're picking sweet potatoes
#2 Shittiest Farm Job: hand harvesting sweet corn

the method I'm most familiar with involves a big crew of dudes with machetes walking through thick-ass corn, & you make 2 cuts. 1 to take most of the stalk off so you can get a clear shot at the ear, then 1 to take the ear off.
There's a giant harvest rig, 10-16 rows wide, behind you to dump your corns on. It's slow, but you better go faster because that mfer ain't stoppin

but don't walk too fast bc you'll trip and & impale yourself on a sliced-off corn stalk or your machete
other features: it's hot as balls bc it's sweet corn season, corn leaves are the passive-aggressive kind of sharp that won't slice you but will leave you with itchy micro-cuts that you'll have all season, and also corn pollen is itchy & gets ev-er-y-where.
the only perk of sweet corn harvesting is every corn field's got a few ears that get attacked by a fungus and turn into something that is delicious but scares white people, so it's ALL YOURS: huitlacoche*

*also the reason they don't pick sweet corn mechanically
#3 shittiest farm job: harvesting watermelons

This one is straight-up comical. You got a tractor pulling a wagon through the field. A bunch of guys line up, 1 per row, in the 4-8 rows next to the wagon. You walk through the field.
When you see a melon you bend over, pick it up & throw it to the next guy.

Everybody takes turns being on the inside & outside bc the outside position is great, but if you're the guy next to the wagon you're getting a LOT of watermelons thrown at you
Picking watermelons gets points for being hot as fuck, stooping, heavy lifting, & you best catch every watermelon they throw at you or else
#4 Shittiest Farm Job: picking tree fruit (apples, cherries, peaches, etc). "Just remember you get paid by the pound so hurry, LOL DON'T FALL THOUGH"

This one is somewhat ameliorated by how since you're in trees, sometimes there's shade
#5 Shittiest Farm Job: pulling up the tarps in a field after they've fumigated the soil

They make sure to wait long enough before doing this that the actual fumigant poison is gone. That's not the problem.
The PROBLEM is there were accidents where fumigant gas was leaking & people died

so they said "it'd sure help if there were some way people could tell it was leaking and decided to RUN AWAY"

So now they put tear gas in it. Tear gas lasts WAY longer in soil than the fumigant.
Come to find out when you roll up a fumigation tarp, there's still a lot of tear gas in the dirt.

So when you pull the tarp up, the earth just belches all that shit out.

Bottom line, it's summer, you're rolling up black tarps that are burning your hands, & also there's tear gas
This one ranks #5 because we only ever had to do 1 acre at a time so it only took a couple hours, whereas 1-4 can go on for weeks.
#6 Shoveling stables

Cons: lots of back work, stank, actively avoiding get crushed by horses

Pros: was doing it for free in exchange for Learning Horsemanship so they couldn't exactly yell at me for being slow
#7 Picking berries outside

Depends on the berry. Strawberries = pain in ass bc they're on the ground -> you're bent over all day. Blackberries & raspberries, you've got thorns. Blueberries: an innocent and harmless bush
#8 Clearing trees by front loader fork

These were young pine trees (6-8" diameter) that my buddy decided he didn't want anymore. So he drove a tractor through them & knocked them all over, but then he needed help picking them all up & putting them in a pile.
This job was totally not strenuous given that I was just picking trees up with a front loader

the downside is buddy thought it was totally cool to just let his dog run loose while we were running a tractor & a front-loader around, thnx for the anxiety
#9 Detasseling corn

You got to stand on a rig that was driving through a cornfield & just pull off tassels as they came to YOU. Anyone who says "farm work, like, changed me" but further inquiry reveals the "farm work" in question was detasseling corn automatically loses all cred
#10 Any work in a greenhouse where it's hot and they can't control the temp

Generally this isn't too strenuous; the crop's at waist level, no bending.

Downside is how it always seems to be 120°F in there
#11 Picking strawberries in a greenhouse where crop's at waist height and it's fucking England so it's not even hot in there.

It's easier than retail. There's little/no heavy lifting. You don't even have to talk to people. It's fucking ideal.
So, thanks for the concern. But when I say "picking berries in a greenhouse in England isn't hard work," that's not me being an armchair quarterback.

That's me speaking from personal experience about picking berries & a lot of other jobs, both farm & non-farm.
to be clear, as long as physically able, I'd still rather do most of these than hourly retail

you don't have to brown-nose strangers all day long & once you've figured your rhythm out, farm work pays more*

*a lot of the poverty's from coyotes rather than low wages per se
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