As we were getting ready to make a fire and settle in for the night the grower returned with his trailer still loaded with apples. He immediately informed all the pickers we were laid off. He begrudged paying us for our labor then explained he had not been offered a price that the Apple Growers Cooperative had agreed as a minimum selling price. Angrily he explained that his next step would be to use his bulldozer to bury the fruits of our labors, then withhold his crop from market until prices increased. We were informed that picking would likely recommence in about a week. In the meantime no one would be allowed to stay on his property.
We left and headed toward Okanogan the county seat. One of our crew had collected food stamps back home. He proposed going to the food stamp office and getting this month’s allotment. In order to receive them he would have to show he had cooking facilities. We found an excellent spot to camp near a creek. Here he set up what appeared to be a kitchen. It was possible to receive food stamps even if living in a camp. All that was required is having separate cooking facilities. We constructed what looked to be his own kitchen in case an inspector visited. With our outdoor home setup we enjoyed a hearty meal. After dinner we carried on a conversation about the state of food production and distribution.
Of course we were disappointed to have lost an opportunity to gain perhaps a couple of week’s work at a decent wage. What stuck us was that a farmer could choose to bury a sizeable harvest when there were hungry people scattered about the world. This coincided with a recent story that the Egg Marketing Board in Quebec had buried several million eggs for the same reason. We realized that farmers were due a good return for their produce, but something seemed amiss about these kinds of actions. Then we mentioned that on the other hand one of our troop was getting government assistance to purchase groceries. Given the inequitable nature our food system spawned, it was no wonder a generation was choosing to live alternatively. We did not have answers. The next morning, we were turned down for food stamps. This gang was headed back to the Olympic National Forest to pursue their luck. I was invited but it did not seem attractive to head toward a spot where receiving food stamps was regarded as form of income. We parted in the morning. I wished them well and headed down the road with Kootenay who had no idea that food was causing much grief.