News from the Farm | September 22, 2014

 Faces from the Fields

Maria Machado has worked at Full Belly Farm for five years, sometimes packing tomatoes and at other times picking fruits and vegetables.  Her husband Sergio works at the farm as well, on the irrigation crew. Last June, Maria was put in charge of her own picking crew. We wanted to tell a little bit of her story to our CSA members since Maria is an important part of the chain of many hands and many people’s dedicated efforts, that result in the CSA boxes that you enjoy every week.  

On a recent afternoon when Maria’s crew was picking padron peppers we sat and talked for a few minutes. The weather was a bit cooler and more comfortable than it has been in weeks past. From where we sat, when I reminded Maria that most of the people getting CSA boxes live in the city, and may never have worked on a farm, we couldn’t help looking around and feeling happy to see the hills on either side of us, the trees providing shade to sit under, and the sounds of the wind moving across the field.

Maria understands a little bit of English, but like many members of our crew, she speaks Spanish at home and at work.  Her day begins in the Full Belly office while the other members of her crew get the truck clean and ready with supplies for the day.  In the office she gets a list showing the things that her crew needs to pick.  Sometimes several crews join together.  Over the summer, Maria’s crew has been picking cherry tomatoes, green beans, summer squash and peppers, like the padron peppers that she was picking the day that we talked.

Since taking the position as a crew leader, Maria feels like she has shouldered a lot of new responsibilities.  She feels accountable for the quality of what is picked and the good work of the people on her crew.  There is always a push to finish the day on time, and this can require a lot of coordination between the crew leaders working in different fields on the farm. 










Most crews like to pick some crops more than others.  Maria likes harvesting beans and cherry tomatoes.  She also really enjoyed packing tomatoes in the packing shed in previous years, and reports that her favorite tomatoes are the heirlooms, especially the Marvel Stripes. She likes to cook some type of tender meat with heirloom tomatoes and green beans, on top of the stove.  The juice from the tomatoes steams the beans right there together in the pot.

Before getting her job at Full Belly, Maria worked at a cosmetics factory in Arizona, in a 40-hour per week job that was based inside all day. Her job at Full Belly is for 60 hours a week during the busy season.  At first, when she came to Full Belly, she wasn’t used to the longer hours, but now she’s accustomed to the work on the farm.  Before working in Arizona, she worked on a farm in Mexico picking chiles and potatoes, but that farm wasn’t organic.  Maria doesn’t think that the chemicals being used on that farm affected her, but she does feel that the workers who were spraying the chemicals were affected, and overall prefers to work on an organic farm.

Maria grew up in Sinaloa, a state on the western side of Mexico.  She graduated from high school, but it was difficult to find good work in Sinaloa.  There are many professionals with advanced degrees and licenses, like teachers and lawyers who are unable to find work in their profession. Even when both Maria and her husband Sergio were working full-time, Maria says that the pay wasn’t enough to cover daily necessities. When she first moved to the United States she thought about her home a lot, but after her mother died and her father remarried, she doesn’t feel the pull as strongly as she used to.

Maria has three kids – two girls and one boy, aged 12, 6 and 4.  All the kids go to school while Maria and her husband Sergio are at work.  There is an after school program that the kids attend until their parents can pick them up at the end of the day.  So the kids have a long day just like their parents.  When they get home, they rest for awhile, prepare dinner and the kids do homework.  Everyone has to get to bed early because the family lives almost an hour away from Full Belly Farm.

Maria’s kids are ambitious and smart.  Her oldest daughter wants to be a doctor.  She tells Maria that she wants to work at Full Belly first, but Maria tells her she must study instead.  The middle son wants to be a fireman and the youngest wants to be a teacher.

Before going back to work with her crew, Maria said that she hopes CSA members enjoy the products “They are good quality, and they’re organic.  All of the Full Belly workers eat the products from the farm, just like the CSA members.”

— Judith Redmond








Maria shown here picking cherry tomatoes