In comparing today’s crops with those of coffee, it certainly seems like the fruits are a bit simpler to cultivate, especially given that they correspond with our expectations of modern agriculture. Whereas coffee requires a very convoluted process of hand-picking, cherry-sorting, de-shelling, washing, and roasting. plants like pineapple merely need to be sliced off of their respective plants to essentially be ready to eat. Similarly, bananas/plantains can be chopped off by the full bunch, which can then be directly sold to supermarkets that often keep them in groups of 3-5. Also, there is a greater sense of efficiency and productivity with the fruit crops because the product is always, large, juicy, and tangible. This means that more of the plants’ resources are visibly going towards the actual edible good that we want to buy/sell.
For example, pineapple plants are fairly small (I had never seen them before and honestly just assumed that pineapples grew on large trees until today), meaning that the large, bulbous pineapple in the center of those crown-like leaves comprises a very large percentage of the entire plant. Similarly, a very generous bunch of thick bananas were visible hanging off of the ripe plants that we saw, which were maybe 3 meters high and very skinny. While coffee plants are only about 2 meters high, they are thick bushes that produce very tiny cherries, with much of the mass of the cherries just being the shells, which are eventually discarded. As such, it seems like today’s fruit crops were much more practical, overall. This makes sense, as coffee is a luxury that doesn’t really provide any essential nutrients for the drinker. Food, meanwhile, is necessary for survival, with calories per dollar being very important for lower-class individuals who need to budget their eating.
The term “organic” is one that has been thrown around a lot during this trip, with each use seeing a varying degree of seriousness. While today’s pineapple crops were organic, the guide admitted that they can turn to herbicides if such is necessary, though it will cost them their organic label. That can be compared to Don Guillermo’s crop, which he admitted was not organic on the basis that “organic” is a performative term. It seems like the crops that we have visited all try to minimize the use of chemicals on their plants, though to some extent, they are still always necessary in order to preserve healthy yields. This is especially the case for cavendish cultivators, as their clone crops are particularly susceptible to infections.
If I were to be a worker, I would mostly care about the temperatures of my working conditions, meaning that I would favor a Pacific-side crop. We saw from today’s banana tour that things can get… muggy…. pretty quickly. Banana farming under the right conditions, though, might be the most fun, as there is minimal intricate wristwork, not to mention that it is pretty cool to carry around a machete everywhere. In any case, today’s weather gave me a newfound appreciation for the raw pain of the labor that goes into so much of what I eat. Estoy afortunado que no tengo que trabajar en algunos de estos campos.