Hello farmworkers and farmworker advocates. Are you reading this?
We don’t blame you if you aren’t, and are instead doing what many Americans are doing today: driving, cleaning, cooking, packing, or just getting ready to relax on one of the precious few holidays that falls on a Thursday.
Many lucky people will settle at a table tomorrow surrounded by more than is there most days. More family. More relaxation. Certainly more food.
America the mixing bowl has such deliciously diverse culinary influences that it’s tricky to single out any one food as it’s trademark. That’s part of what sets Thanksgiving apart from many holidays: most people who sit down to Thanksgiving dinner will look at a similar plate. Will yours look anything like this one?
Turkey – Much as we don’t want to think about it, around 46 million turkeys are slaughtered in the U.S. in preparation for Thanksgiving tables – most coming from Minnesota, North Carolina, and Arkansas. That’s a big job, requiring upwards of 250,00 processing workers handling tens of birds each minute. Unfortunately, poultry plant workers have an injury rate 50% above the national workplace average – and that’s just what’s reported. More on the dark reality of poultry plants here.
Stuffing – This savory Thanksgiving favorite is a base of breadcrumbs with butter, herbs, eggs, veggies, and broth. Everyone you ask will have their own variation – what’s yours? Make your stuffing cheaper by cubing your old stale bread. Make it healthier by using less butter and more spices. Make it greener by getting your vegetables organically grown from your local farmers market.
Mashed Potatoes – Every balanced meal has a carbohydrate pulling it all together: enter the potato. Funny enough, though now our Thanksgiving plate would look naked without mashed or sweet potatoes, the first Thanksgiving had none. They weren’t cultivated in the now-United States until the 18th century. The number 4 most widely consumed whole crop worldwide, potatoes are almost as popular as rice, wheat and corn.
Cranberry Sauce – The poor cranberry doesn’t get much national attention outside of November. Still, as those who enjoy them year-round know, they are stuffed with vitamin C, A, and K as well as valuable antioxidants and fiber. Plain cranberry sauce is a great garnish, but if you find yourself with leftovers use it to get creative with salads, wraps, cakes, casseroles, and more.
Pumpkin Pie – You aren’t going to toss that Halloween pumpkin, are you? They come in all sizes and colors, but the most popular Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin is the 12 to 18 pound face variety. The smaller pie pumpkin is said to be better to make – you guessed it – your pumpkin pie, thanks to its creamy texture and full flavor. Thousands of migrant farmworkers (especially in the top-producing state of Illinois) broke a sweat to harvest these heavy treats, and AFOP provides them training!
Check out this great interactive map sourcing some of our Thanksgiving favorites.
Food is a bond between us – a special way to share with loved ones, and to give thanks for the blessings we have. No matter what your plate looks like, we know you’ll join us in pausing tomorrow to reflect on the hands that cultivated this food. It is the labor of U.S. farmworkers that draws us around the table to chat, yell, argue, and laugh this Thanksgiving. And, of course, to fight over the last slice of pecan pie.
Happy Thanksgiving, ¡o feliz día de acción de gracias!