Fast and Slow

Originally published on “Into the Fields,” a blog about my time as an intern through Student Action with Farmworkers. For the full version of this post with a video that shows the pace of industrial corn picking, click here

Some people call the country life slow. In some ways it may be slow. People do talk slower, and nothing is a block away. Evenings and time off from work can be slow too. Too slow. If you can’t drive anywhere, you are stuck sitting around in the evening, watching TV, listening to music, or trying to strike up conversations. I sat with the workers in one camp, on a plastic bucket like them, as the light died down. As far as work goes, though it’s as fast as any factory or holiday-season checkout line, only with heat thrown in to make it worse. They do get breaks for water, but there’s nothing slow about the work itself.


Originally published on “Into the Fields,” a blog about my time as an intern through Student Action with Farmworkers.

Before I go any further about South Carolina, I should mention that most of the time I wasn’t alone. Like all Student Action with Farmworkers interns, I lived and worked with another intern. My intern partner was Pedro. He grew up in Georgia and cut tobacco for a living. He was now in college preparing for a career in medicine, possibly nursing or medical translation.

In college I had always traded on self deprecating humor and nervous stuttering apologies to get what I wanted or needed. Pedro was the complete opposite. He traded on deadpan bragging humor and measured words. If I had to sum Pedro up in one word, it would be “driven.” He was always figuring out ways to make our projects succeed. “I don’t like being told I can’t do something,” he told me.

He wasn’t driven in a nervous way though, or at least he did not show it. He was able to relax in his time off, even if his idea of relaxing was to go to Charleston or Burlington or check out Columbia’s nightlife rather than just spend the night at home.

Many of the SAF interns like Pedro had come from similar situations to the people we were helping. Throughout my time in SAF, I spent time with people who had worked in fields or greenhouses and had now moved on to college. It struck me that what we were seeing was not exotic to them at all. It was life. It wasn’t just about wanting to see the conditions of farmworkers. It was about giving back while moving ahead. It was about being driven.