Uzbekistan doctors are sometimes conscripted to go to the cotton fields and help with the harvest rather than caring for patients.
Some people have fond memories of bright, colorful fall days from their childhood. One of mine is of walking through cold, wet-from-a-heavy dew cotton plants in my grandfather’s fields on Saturday mornings.
My school-system never let out for cotton picking in the fall like some in our area did. But my brothers and I would spend several Saturdays – and some after-school time – each fall helping my grandfather pick his cotton. (The first cotton pickers were around but my grandfather thought they were a fad.)
I thought about those memories while reading an article in the New York Times about how the government of Uzbekistan sends nearly a million people into rural areas to help with the cotton harvest each fall.
The article says the “volunteers,” many of them public-employees and professionals, including doctors, receive little to no pay and are often away from home for weeks at a time. I can’t imagine anything more mind-numbing than this.
There are a lot of people in this country who think the U.S. should reverse the trend toward larger, mechanized farming operations and go back to a day of growing crops organically on what amounts to small plots of land with mostly hand labor.
I wish those folks could spend one day pulling a nine-foot cotton sack through a field on a cold Saturday in Arkansas.