My last tofu trays shift
“Do you like doing trays?” Sabrina asked me one night while i was making hammocks.
i laughed. “Not really, but tofu trays is honest work and i dont do much honest work around here. So i keep doing it.”
What i meant by that is i do a lot of lighter work: marketing, recruiting, managing, organizing, home schooling, child care, political work. Work on the phone, work with keyboards or pencils or toys. I get labor credits for these and the community recognizes them as important aspects of our collective economy and culture.
But when i got up at 6 this morning to put in 3.5 hours before 10 AM moving basically non-stop in the loud, hot, busy, wet tofu hut – it feels like real work, like some of the heavy lifting that keeps this farm crossed with several small businesses going.
Sabrina was asking, because in this off winter season there were a number of people asking for additional shifts and she believed (i am somewhat flattered to say) that i was busy with other things (especially managing the hammocks business) and that i could stop doing early morning tofu trays for a while.
This morning i did what might well be my last tofu trays shift before the big upgrades are finished. The job wont at all be the same and i have already watched it change dramatically.
When i started working in tofu in 1999, Hawina was managing the business and she needed more workers. She made a pitch to me that she thought trays would be the job i would like. Really what she was saying was, since we needed all hands on deck, there was not really a “not interested” option, so trays would be the best of the available options for me.
When i started with trays we pressed the tofu in metal boxes which had cinder block weights hanging on chains running thru pulleys. It was rustic and rusty. In retrospect i am surprised it passed health inspection. We have come a very long way from there.
Trays is one of the two hard jobs still left in the tofu hut. When i started there was quite some danger that you would get burned if you worked in packaging, but these problems have long been fixed. Now the other job besides trays which is hard is kettle, where you have to carry buckets of wet beans up a short set of slippery stairs and load them into a grinder which is over your head. If trays is harder (and there is certainly no consensus) it is because there is more and heavier lifting involved.
If Sabrina (who assigns the weekly tofu schedule) does not give me another shift in February, since i will be gone in March and April, by the time i return my job will be unrecognizably different. All the heavy lifting will be gone, instead it will be about juggling 7 sets of trays instead of 3, with giant hoses of tofu coming in from overhead. The kettle job will simply vanish after this million dollar upgrade is complete.
So i am not quitting tofu, but the job which i have done for over a decade will be dramatically easier, which is good for workers, good for our income and hopefully will still feel like real honest work.