Backdate: Picking Grapes

I wrote this in October 2010. That summer I’d been in South Carolina, helping migrant workers on farms get to a health clinic. After that, I “settled” in Asheville. I tried to find a job, but the only one I found was a job picking grapes for the Biltmore Estate. This was originally a Facebook note to other interns.

Usually it’s supposed to work the other way around.

I went from doing the SAF internship to picking grapes.

It’s $8 per hour, irregular days (based on which grapes are in season). I can’t say I’m in exactly the position of the people I saw this summer. I’m in my own country, if not my own city. But I do know things now that I’d just heard about.

Cold mornings, hot days, dusty roads in the back of the truck, wet gloves, avoiding hitting anyone with the shears, tired time after work (until I got used to it). Having to wash clothes with pesticides separately. Occasional grape juice or dust  in the eyes when you’re not careful. And yes, there is labor lore, even if most of us, being in North Carolina have no experience with grapes, we’ve developed a few things (and, yes, I did hear the joke about “grape-vine stretchers”).

Yet still there’s something strangely satisfying about physical work. Something that’s hard to phrase at times. I’ll answer any questions you have now.

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