Monday, November 28, 2011

Mexican hands bring food to your table, says Tennessee farmer George Marks

Photo from home page of Burley Stabilization Corporation, where George Marks is President of the Board of Directors

"All your vegetables had a Mexican hand on it. All your fruit, and three quarters of your meat."
-Middle Tennessee farmer George Marks,
on the interaction between immigration politics and food
in Tennessean report by Chas Sisk

Photo of George Marks by
Southeast Farm Press
George Marks' Clarksville-area farm has been in the family since 1899, when it produced tobacco, corn and wheat. George's father Arthur started the dairy production, one of few dairies still operating in Montgomery County. George and other family members still own the farm, but George runs its current crops, which include corn, wheat, soybeans, tobacco, beef and dairy.

The Marks farm has been recognized as a Tennessee Century Farm, and Marks credits the sustainability of many of its products to 19 farmhands from the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, Mexico. Most of these providers (for their families and for Tennessee families) have been returning to work for Marks year after year, on seasonal visas, for over a decade. Three employees were identified in the Tennessean story: Pedro PeñaLupe Villegas, and Pedro Mateus.

In addition to his farming duties, Marks is active in leadership and service for the Farm Bureau, the Montgomery County Cooperative, the Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Commission, and the Burley Stabilization Corporation.

According to Bread for the World, "[a]lmost three-fourths of all U.S. hired farm workers are immigrants, most of them unauthorized. The U.S. food system—particularly fruit and vegetable production—depends on immigrants more than any other sector of the U.S. economy."

Marks put it this way to the Tennessean: "All your vegetables had a Mexican hand on it. All your fruit, and three quarters of your meat."

Thank farmers and their teams for the food they provide your family - just fill out the form at the TN Farm Bureau web site  Here is what I submitted: Before each meal, my preschool son starts saying grace by putting his hands in the air and singing, "Open, shut them / Open, shut them / Give a little clap / Open, shut them / Open, shut them / Fold them in your lap," and then "God our Father, once again, we bow our heads to thank you, Amen." I thank God for abundance of the land, the animals, the farms and the farmers, and for all of their teams on those farms who put in the hard work that puts food on our family's table. 

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