Welcome to the blog for Colgate University's interdisciplinary course on food. This is the place to keep up with what students in the course are experiencing in their work at Common Thread Community Farm and through their everyday encounters with food.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Grape Harvesting

I came across this article, "Harvesting Grapes in France with Champagne as Reward" the other day when scrolling through the New York Times and thought that it was worth sharing.  Many of the points the author raises have interesting connections to Harper’s “Changing Works.”  In the article, Mah, the author, recounts her experience as a volunteer worker on a champagne vineyard in France.  On the vineyard Mah worked for, she harvested the grapes by hand, along with other volunteers and paid workers.  She had come to France to participate in the “age-old tradition of les vendanges.”  During the harvest, when the demand for workers in so much greater, vineyards rely on the temporary labor that comes in the form of volunteers. 
            Mah discusses how there are some wineries that have made the transition from harvesting by hand to harvesting instead with a machine.  She explains that while the machines are faster and cheaper, the quality of the grapes is inconsistent.  Therefore, in the premier regions, much of the grape harvest is still done manually.  I found this an interesting juxtaposition to the changes in farming Harper observes in “Changing Works.”  It is interesting that while American farming is becoming quicker, cheaper, and more productive through mechanization, grape growers in France chose to forgo those advancements to maintain high quality.  This suggests that although general farming has to keep up with progress, some types of crops, especially those making high quality, luxury goods like champagne, can stick to traditional methods because of the good they produce.

            Another relevant point to “Changing Works” is the community aspect of the harvest that Mah describes.  Many champagne wineries entice volunteers by offering meals and lodging.  Therefore during the harvest, many of the workers are all living and eating together.  In addition, she recounts working in the fields in pairs.  She goes on to describe the comradery this creates through conversation and offering help to each other.  This sense of community created by working the harvest together is the same sense of community that the practice of changing works creates, as explained by Harper.  The community, established through shared manual labor, is something that has been lost in the age of mechanized farming, especially in the US.  However, in the champagne producing wineries of France, because of the status of their product, they are able to hold on to this age-old tradition.   

(Image: Haslam, Andy. 2016. Harvest time Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Retrieved September 20, 2016 (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/travel/wine-harvest-france-volunteer-vendange.html?mabReward=A3&moduleDetail=recommendations-1&action=click&contentCollection=Briefing&region=Footer&module=WhatsNext&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&src=recg&pgtype=article))

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