Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Context Unfamiliar

I am out on the Eastern Shore, near Exmore, Virginia, for a week of learning about the problem of hunger -- locally and globally -- with the youth of Silver Spring UMC. The "work" of the week is gleaning in potato fields.  Did you know that at one time, the Eastern Shore was the largest producer of Irish potatoes globally? Neither did I. Today the area also produces chicken, tomatoes, soy beans and corn. Big potato production is put west. It is clear that agriculture here is omnipresent and struggling. There are lots of tumbling down structures, shuttered businesses, weary looking folks sitting on the porch. And on Sunday, there is machinery in the fields and migrants being moved about by the bus load to pick.

I can't quite get it through my head that this narrowing strip of land is dedicated mostly to food production...not tourism. Look at a map and you see expanses of big bays on both sides with the ocean looming near. I have spent the afternoon trying to get to the eastern edge of the peninsula...and it all seems to be preserve OR private farmland.

I am surprised that our vacation-loving, sun-seeking society hasn't built this area up like Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach. And I am grateful too. But painfully aware of the financial hardships here. Across from the closest tomato packing facility, I spotted a row of whitewashed shanties with clothes lines hung between. They were neatly painted and tiny, likely with a central bathhouse. They were camouflaged by a stand of trees...  I assume this is migrant housing, and I assume the buses I have seen in the fields have taken workers into the field for the day (Sunday). 

I don't have judgment. It is just so far from what I know and would expect by looking at the map. Look at me going and applying my assumptions. 

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