Monday, September 7, 2015

Plantation Tour Impressions by Sarah French

On Tuesday August 25th, we visited a small heart of palm (palmito) plantation in the morning, and the Dole banana plantation in the afternoon. Visiting both in one day made for a very interesting comparison. The heart of palm plantation was very small and personal; we spoke with the owner and heard genuine answers to all of our questions. The factory manager was unbelievably open and friendly, taking us into her office after the tour to show us the other projects that she was working on, and even kissing our professor on the cheek when we were leaving.
At the Dole plantation on the other hand, we were not allowed to bring cameras or phones to protect their privacy. Despite this, at first impression I was pleasantly surprised at how personal the plantation seemed. Sure they used fungicides and probably herbicides, pesticides, and a whole array of other “-icides,” but most processes were done by hand: fertilizer, upkeep, cutting, transportation; the only mechanized process is the tilling of the ground. In my mind that makes the process more meaningful, the industry is not completely mechanized, it is still providing jobs and the fruit is produced with care.
I was even convinced that the $30/day salary sounded reasonable, it’s more than the workers at the family heart of palm plantation made, and that owner seemed even more genuine! The majority of the Dole workforce was Costa Rican; they sell homes to the workers so that they have more of a sense of ownership, pride in the company. Our guide kept putting emphasis on how transparent they strive to be, despite the fact that they rarely give tours.
But how much of this is genuine and how much is calculated? Is the house to give the worker a sense of ownership in the company, or is it to give the company a sense of ownership over the workers?

What really caught me off guard was that in spite of the fact that we were not allowed cameras or phones, at the end our guide had us drive out of our way so that he could take a picture of us. There was no explanation of why, what it would be used for, or even an offer to take our picture for us, just a picture of us in his hands. Dole now owns a piece of us that we will never have, how many others feel the same?

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