4.15 It’s Monday! What are you reading? #FarmHands #WillInScarlet

A new week, a new batch of books–both books finished and being read. Today is…

Ring-the-Bell Monday & It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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{Sharing what books we’ve read in the past week & the titles we are currently reading.}


 FARM HANDS BY TOM RIVERS (ISBN 10: 0-9845656-0-4) (ISBN 13: 978-0-9845656-0-3)
{Remember back in 2010 when Stephen Colbert testified before congress about how difficult farm work was? Tom knows better. He put in about 200 hours of farm work—from planting onions, to milking cows, to picking fruit—and documented his experiences in his columns for a Batavia newspaper. He turned those columns into this book, Farm Hands.
Here is a little blurb from his website.

With 20x Colbert’s experience, here’s what I’d tell Congress

Political satirist Stephen Colbert testified on Friday that farm work is “really, really hard.” The comedian broke the news to a House subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. Colbert was brought in as an “expert witness” after having worked 10 hours at a vegetable farm one day in August.Colbert’s expertise is debatable – even he acknowledged it was his star power that got him the Congressional gig. And while I hesitate to call myself an “expert” on this topic, I did put in about 20 days, or 200 hours, over the course of six months in 2008, attempting to make it a full shift at 13 different farms. I spent the most time at a dairy farm, milking cows for six nights.I tried the jobs hoping to give readers a glimpse into the work. The 16-part newspaper series that ran in The Daily News in Batavia has since been expanded and published in a book, Farm Hands: Hard work and hard lessons from Western New York fields.Since Colbert’s testimony, I’ve heard from several friends who’ve said, “Hey,you should’ve been the one testifying to Congress.” So for those kind folks, and anyone else who’s curious, here’s what would I say to lawmakers in the nation’s capitol:First, the obvious: Farm work is hard – Colbert got that right. I’d say it’s tougher than a marathon. From planting onions to milking cows, from cutting cabbage to picking cucumbers, the jobs progressively became more grueling, more near-impossible, when I tried to see if I, an average American guy, could make it through a day on the farm.They were the most physically demanding tasks I’ve ever attempted. If you want to know just how hard, I’d suggest shoving a steak knife in your wrists and lower back, and then twisting it. And that’s the feeling at 10 in the morning. You still have at least seven hours to go.I did survive full days in the vegetable fields, fruit orchards and milking parlor. All of the jobs were exhausting. But the skeptics want evidence, numbers to back up that claim. So here’s some hard data:

Zero in 20 years. That’s how many local people responded to ads in the newspapers for the chance to cut cabbage for Lynn-Ette and Sons, a big vegetable farm in Kent, N.Y. When I showed up and announced to the cabbage manager that I intended to last eight hours in the fields, he laughed so hard some of his saliva landed on me.

Darren Roberts doubted I would make it. He hadn’t seen a white guy even try the job in two decades despite the local media blitz of job postings. Instead, the farm hires more than 100 Mexican and Jamaican workers to bring in the crop each year.

Four days. That was how long it took for me to regain use of my arms after cutting cabbage and picking cucumbers for just one day each in August 2008. At that time my wife and I had a 2 ½ year old daughter who weighed 23 pounds. She liked to be held a lot. But I couldn’t pick her up for four days after either harvesting experience. The tendons, ligaments and connective tissue in my wrists had been traumatized. I could barely manage to drive my Toyota Tercel, a vehicle that lacks power steering.

One-third: For my grand finale, I wanted to work at an apple farm and have my output measured against the picking pros. At that point in October 2008, I had already spent a day with a Mexican crew at one apple farm and then another day with a Jamaican crew in a different orchard.

I felt like a proficient picker when I set foot on Excelsior Farms, about a mile from Lake Ontario. That day I picked Empire apples with eight workers from Haiti. We had to fill ¾ bushel buckets, about 30 pounds or 80 apples per load. Every time we unfilled the baskets, we were given a slip of paper to track of our output. The farm paid 80 cents per ticket.

We worked for eight hours. I thought I was going at a good rate. I expected a respectable showing at the end of the day, when we all counted our tickets. The fastest Haitian, a man named Jean, put in a Gold Medal effort, racking up an incredible 253 tickets, good for a $202.40 check from the farm. The “worst” Haitian tallied 198 tickets, which netted him $158.60.

I was expecting maybe 150 tickets for myself. But I only had 89, about as third as much as Jean. That effort would have earned me $71.20.

You can read a review of the book from AgWired.
Tom and I went to college together at Roberts Wesleyan. In fact, we worked together on the school newspaper, The Beacon. He went on to a career in journalism and lives in Albion, NY. 
I have known about this book for a while now, but for some reason hadn’t read it. Mr. Peterson and I were having a discussion about farm work—you can ask him about his tomato-picking days—and I remembered this book. (I love being able to reserve books online from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. How easy can you get?) 
One thing is for sure: farm work is tough. This was eye-opening and surprisingly interesting. That is the sign of a gifted writer. Nice job, Mr. RIvers.}
Z is for Moose jacket
OK—confession. I was at my daughters’ book fair Friday night and I was literally laughing out loud at this book. Check out the trailer:
[Check back throughout the day for updates of my students’ reading.]
Since last Monday, my A Class has read:
14 books
My B Class has read:
16 books
My C Class has read:
8 books
THAT’S right! I scored an ARC of Mr. Cody’s upcoming book. I’m about a third into it. We had this little back and forth on Twitter:
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I’m hoping my copy comes in to the library. I’m very excited—and sad—to finish this series. Epic.

Before you see what the students are reading… what are you reading? Please leave a comment and let us know—and show the students that reading isn’t just a “school” thing.

(For every parent who leaves a comment with what you’re reading, I’ll give your child a BUSTED ticket…)

[Check back at the end of the day to see the cool spinning pictures of what my students are reading.]

Click the picture below for A Class SpinCam
Click the picture below for B Class SpinCam
Click the picture below for C Class SpinCam

[If anyone else is using SpinCam to show what your students are reading, I’d love to know about it and link to my Friday post. Thanks.]
David Etkin

15 thoughts on “4.15 It’s Monday! What are you reading? #FarmHands #WillInScarlet

  1. Just finished The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Great book! The book is told from the dog’s perspective.

    • That fits in perfectly with a couple texts we read getting ready for testing. Do you think Andrew would like it? Maybe a good summer book.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain. I read it twice and plan on reading it again. I empathized with the dog throughout the book. I could picture the wet grass sliding along his skin.
      Uncle Al

  2. I’m currently reading The Litigators by John Grisham…I think Samantha might actually read faster than I do 😉

  3. I’m finally starting Super Freakonomics. Finished the Ben Hogan golf book and Lee Child’s Reacher novel.
    Uncle Al

  4. I’m truly SHOCKED after reading that part of Tom Rivers’ book on farming. I knew they worked hard but had not perspective of what that meant. Thanks for opening my eyes.(and for a great dinner!). W

    • I’m glad you liked dinner.

      I think you’d find the book interesting, having gardened in the past. A part of me wants to try the farm work. I’m sure it’s near kill me.

  5. I am currently reading Worth Fighting For, a novel by Lisa Niemi Swayze. She is Patrick Sayze’s widow. It chronicles her husband’s battle with pancreatic cancer. It is a very touching and emotional book.

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