The husbandman's is the oldest and most universal profession. The farming of early Palestine was on fertile soil; natural waters abundant; rain plentiful. The grains grown were wheat, barley, rye, and millet. Orchards produced the vine, olive, and fig. Gardens grew beans, fitches, peas, lettuce, garlic, onions, melons, cucumbers, cabbage, etc. The implements were the plow, harrow, and hoe, but these were crude. Grains were cut with the sickle, and the sheaves were threshed by treading with oxen, usually drawing sleds; while winnowing was done in sheets before the wind.

The land rested every seven years according to the law of Moses. The poor were allowed to glean the field. The happy days of harvest time when men built booths so as to be near the produce of their lands. For it was the Jews who tended the countryside, Greeks alone serving as merchants in the towns.

In ancient Israel, the spring grain harvest began with reaping. This was accomplished with small curved cutting tools called sickles. The reaper would cut the barley or wheat with one hand and gather the severed stalks with the other hand. Next, workers would carry the reaped stalks to the threshing floor - a large open area, often at the top of a hill. There the stalks were trampled by oxen drawing a wooden sledge. The oxen's hooves, as well as sharp studs embedded in the underside of the sledge, separated the kernels from the straw and chaff. After this, workers winnowed the grain, using pitchforks to toss it into the evening breeze. The light straw and chaff blew away, while the heavier kernels fell to the ground. To prevent theft, farmers usually would sleep near their winnowed grain until they could store it in large clay jars or pits in the ground.

The best lands in Italy of the first century were taken up by the villas and grounds of the rich, the next best by olive orchards and vineyards; only inferior soils were left for tillage.. "We have abandoned the husbandry of our soil to our lowest slaves, and they treat it like barbarians."

Every man ought to stand in primary relations with the work of this world, ought to do it himself without the accident of a purse in his pocket. Farming had the significant effect of stabilizing communities. Jefferson taught that "America is essentially agricultural, and agricultural it must remain."

The independent proprietors of low-income farms have become the human reservoir for low-paying industry. The surplus foods are scrupulously cared for and controlled; the human beings are not, poverty in the midst of abundance; they often go hungry while the fields produce more than ever before in man's history. St. James wrote "Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields which is of you kept down by fraud, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of saboath."

Here in California, the agriculture is the richest in the world but its agricultural suffering is perhaps the most spectacular in the nation. And yet, with all the setbacks and struggles, the union of Cesar Chavez was the greatest hope that these men and women have ever had or realized.
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