In 1996 I started my career in the agricultural subsector of fresh fruit and vegetables. At the time, I was a newly graduated agronomist looking for the best career options. From interview to interview, I was trying to visualize my career and the way I should, and could, use my studies in the future.
At one of these interviews, in Valencia, I had the pleasure of meeting a “lifelong orange grower“. The employer in question (let me skip his name) had a medium-sized company but with a long history in Valencia.
The interview was long, intense and sometimes overwhelming. The questions came in rapid succession showing the mental agility of the interviewer (despite his age) and his strong character; a gentle but firm character, very self-assured in his statements and typical of someone who has gone through almost everything and survived by his own efforts. Towards the end of the interview, he said in a neutral tone:
May I ask you one last question?
Of course sir, go ahead.
Needless to say, the question departed from the script of a normal job interview and was an attack on my personal privacy. My reply was:
Now look here, how dare you suggest such a thing? I refuse to answer such a question. I came here to apply for a job, not see a doctor.
The employer concerned could not help grinning, which made me even angrier.
Don’t make such a fuss, it’s no big deal, -he said.
What do you mean it’s no big deal? -I stammered.
Look son, the question is quite appropriate. If you want to work in this business, you should know it’s a crazy business for crazy people. In fact, having a history of mental illness in the family is an advantage; at least you’ll be able to blame someone.
Obviously, I didn’t get the job and I wouldn’t have accepted it if I had been offered it. Over time, I’ve realized that on that day someone decided to teach me the first important lesson of this business but I didn’t take it in until later. It is like the uncomfortable truths that parents tell us when we are children. Children (in this case, the inexperienced) do not want to believe what our parents tell us and we think they are old fuddy-duddies. According to the famous saying: “you learn from your own mistakes.”
Horticulture is an unknown world to the general public; a world that contains a universe of individuals working from the planting of a crop until its fruits reach the table; a world of troubles where the “goal is never achieved“; a world I intend to reveal, while paying tribute to the men and women of this business (starting with this blog).
This post is dedicated to all those nutters who work in this business. To all those who often curse their luck for working in this industry but do nothing to find work elsewhere. Because, whether they recognize it or not, they are suffering from a mental illness, which is contagious like mass hysteria.
This post is dedicated to the lunatics who are the best professionals I know. The best negotiators are not in the stock market, they are in horticulture. The best production managers are not in the auto industry, they are in the fresh produce packaging plants. The most devoted and lowest paid workers are not in any other industry, they are in this one. And yet they are still here… Blessed madness!