In honor of Labor Day, the Accidental Locavore would like you to take a closer look at an onion. Why an onion and why on Labor Day?
As it turns out, there is an awful lot of labor connected with something as everyday as an onion and with all food. Having completed my required hours at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (my CSA) I am left with a renewed respect for the people who raise the food that we eat. It’s hard work!
Back to the onions. When they’re ready to be harvested, they’re dug up, then transported to the greenhouse and spread out on racks to dry in a controlled (i.e. relatively pest and weather-proof) environment. This can take up to a month. Once the onions are dried, they need to be spruced up. Another thing we usually take for granted. We want perfect produce. But perfect produce doesn’t happen on its own and what I’ve learned from the farm is that there’s a lot of work in making the food we eat attractive enough to take home to transform into tonight’s dinner.
Back again to the onions. A team of workers (today it was us), goes through each onion, checks it for usability (fine, seconds and compost), cuts off all but ½” of the growth, takes off all the muddy, yucky layers, removes the roots and carefully bags the now-perfect onion (the seconds and compost onions go in separate bins). It’s not hard work, especially in terms of what goes on in harvesting vegetables, but it’s much more labor-intensive then I ever imagined when I reach for an onion.
Later, when I got my well-earned sandwich at the local diner and saw the onions on it, I paused, thinking about how much it took to get those onions onto that plate and was very happy and appreciative. So, on this Labor Day, when you pop that perfect late-summer tomato into your mouth, or slice up an onion to top a burger, pause for a moment and think about the hard work that went into it and give a quiet thank-you for the farmers who do this for us.