By Lauren Stepp
Mikey and Danielle Hutchison are deeply rooted in one belief: Food is political. “Most of the food you touch was picked by someone with brown skin,” says Mikey. “That’s just America.”
Earlier this year, the couple unveiled a two-story mural on their packing barn in Old Fort. In bright pinks and greens, the display, which has been named La Cosecha or The Harvest, depicts a migrant farm worker taking pause with an armful of produce. But there are more radical and subversive undertones. Nodding to contentious immigration reform, a border wall spans the barn’s garage doors, disappearing when the doors are rolled up. The scene, which was composed by Brooklyn-based street artist Edwin David Sepulveda, better known as Don Rimx, depicts sentiments felt by many farmers.
“It’s a moment I experience all the time,” says Mikey. “While working, I’ll take pause, enjoy my environment and be present in harvesting. It’s a moment of contemplation.”
Beyond depicting honest moments in agriculture, La Cosecha is about addressing cultural barriers. In 2012, the Hutchisons opened Beacon Village Farm in Swannanoa. The beginnings were humble—a single acre provided enough fertile ground for the Warren Wilson College graduates to sell at produce markets. They have since transitioned to an organic, wholesale model anchored on 80 acres where they sell kale, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other vegetables to big-box store vendors. Through floods and years of “limping along,” they have been supported by a crew of Guatemalan workers.
“They started by moonlighting on the weekends, picking greens,” says Danielle. “Now, they are the backbone of our business. Our farm would not be successful without them.”
Mikey adds, “People don’t understand the intensity of farming. The sun is hot, rain is wet. It’s not easy, but everyone involved in our operation works hard so others can live better lives.”
La Cosecha pays homage to the migrant workers who made Beacon Village Farm possible. It also serves as a rejoinder to the comments Mikey and Danielle have received about hiring people of color. In a conservative area like McDowell County, Sepulveda’s graffiti can be “triggering.”
“Unless you are a Native American or descendant of a slave, you are an immigrant,” says Mikey. “And as soon as you step into this country, you are governed by the Constitution. No one is ‘illegal.’”
But more than to raise eyebrows, Sepulveda intended for the mural to evoke conversation. A blend of organic and inorganic elements—fields and walls, fresh produce and neon colors—the art piece is aesthetically engaging. It also gives a voice to the voiceless. “The migrant workers are the hard work behind the process—before the food gets to our plate,” says Sepulveda. “But no one gives them recognition.”
Recognizing the importance of migrant workers in our food system is Loren Cardeli’s primary goal. Cardeli is the founder of A Growing Culture, an organization that works with small farmers around the world. He collaborated with the Hutchisons and Sepulveda to bring the mural to Old Fort, and hopes to bring similar displays to barns and silos across the country.
“With deflating rural economies across the country, immigrants have many of the skills and knowledge needed to turn these communities around,” says Cardeli. “These workers are the backbone to America’s rural economies and because undocumented migrant workers lack federal wage and labor protections, they can be much more easily exploited. Their lack of protection is not an accidental by–product of our domestic food system but an intended consequence designed by the corporate interests that shape it. Immigrants make America great.”
For more information regarding A Growing Culture’s outreach initiatives, visit AGrowingCulture.org. For more information regarding Beacon Village Farm, call 828-808-0919.