A cold morning in February and a sun still shy to rise, it’s time to harvest olives! As all the baggage is ready from the day before, there are only mud drooling roads to worry about (once the sun makes up his mind). Soon water runs down my back too, so, when the shadows are the shortest, I decide to take a piece of clothing off.

One more tree despoiled, we stage nets under the next and hit the branches with our long sticks until the last olive has fallen. Next tree. Be careful to not spill any olives from the nets! Next line. Will we finish the whole field today? Before the day comes to a close, we fill up the last sacks and hurry to deliver the harvest.

Unsurprisingly, the prize barely covers the cost for the whole endeavor. As usual, fewer and older people come to deliver their harvest too. I cannot help but to ask: am I the last generation to take on such a task? Gasoline has replaced the mule, my nets are made of durable nylon thread, the fabrics that cover my skin are as natural as the wheels of our car. And I know that the result of this harvest does not change my daily modern life.

Soon, only a handful of agricultural engineers will be needed to harvest the whole shire. Efficient, like no one in the countryside before, they ride the new engines that collect each tree with appalling speed. Yet, something does not feel right. Maybe I am romanticizing the past, inventing a countryside without flies. Trading my modern amenities for the hardships of a farmer in the past does not sound that bad, at least, when I think of it from my air conditioned office. My suspicion of the machine, perhaps, is a disguise for a yearning for a simpler time. Yet, it has been around a decade since I last harvested olives. But still now, I cannot stop to wonder: does the olive tree prefer a mechanical hug, or a human beating?

– Fernan Gomez-Monedero (Ph.D. Student)