Home Farm Equipment Young Sikh Farmers in California Keep Up a Long Tradition

Young Sikh Farmers in California Keep Up a Long Tradition


KERMAN, Calif. — Simranjit Singh is a second-generation American farmer, however his agricultural roots return 900 years.

Earlier than his father moved to California from India in 1991, earlier than India gained independence from Britain in 1947, earlier than his Sikh tradition took root in 1469, the civilizations of Northern India labored varied agricultural lands, and Mr. Singh, 28, is a component that unbroken lineage.

On a secluded 100-acre farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California, he and his father have a tendency the household’s raisin and almond orchards, decided to maintain their heritage very important.

“Whatever is passed to me from my father is so valuable that I would be a fool to throw it away,” he says. “Farming will always be at the core of who I am.”

Over the previous century, ethnic diasporas from everywhere in the world have labored in these fields, as folks from Armenia, Mexico, Southeast Asia, China and plenty of different locations have constructed lives and households rooted in Central California’s fertile soil. It’s a place whose financial system and lifeblood are outlined by the land and the individuals who work it. Punjabi Sikhs are among the many most up-to-date migrants to strive their luck.

The Sran farm, the place Mr. Singh works together with his father, Sarbjit Sran, is a small full-time operation with simply the 2 males working most day-to-day operations. Mr. Singh’s mom, Jaswinder Sran, 55, generally joins them in the fields. Solely throughout the late-summer harvest does the household rent contract laborers to reap the ripened crops.

Mr. Singh and different youthful Sikh farmers in the area are already a shrinking group. Financial mobility has pushed latest generations into extra historically white-collar occupations, even because the remaining farmers really feel responsibility certain to proceed.

“Around here, you don’t have as many Punjabi workers as we used to have in the ’80s and ’90s, because the kids are now doing professional things,” stated Simon Sihota, a distinguished Punjabi Sikh farmer in the world.

Just like the Sran farm, Mr. Sihota’s enterprise stays principally a household affair. His son Arvin, 22, simply graduated from California Polytechnic State College with a diploma in farm administration, and his older son Kavin, 24, has a diploma from Cornell in enology, the science of constructing wine. His daughter Jasleen, 20, frequently helps with administrative duties for the household enterprise.

The household works collectively in the identical manner that Mr. Sihota helped his father and grandfather in the fields when he was younger. His father arrived in California from India in 1961 and finally saved sufficient cash to purchase 40 acres; the farm has since grown to three,000 acres of almonds, pistachios, wine grapes and peaches.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” stated Kavin Sihota. “When I was out on the East Coast, I’d always miss the farming lifestyle.”

Although younger Sikh farmers like Kavin Sihota and Simranjit Singh are more and more unusual in this a part of the world, their friends have discovered other ways to interact with the custom of Indian farming and their Sikh group extra broadly.

Since September 2020, farmers in India have been protesting new agricultural legal guidelines they are saying will devastate small farmers and restrict the earnings their land can generate. The brand new guidelines reduce the federal government’s function in farming and eliminate state protections, which farmers worry will go away them on the mercy of the unfettered free market.

As phrase of the protests made it to the US, younger American Sikhs have proven their assist on social media and at native rallies.

Anureet Kaur, 16, a highschool sophomore from Selma, Calif., posted so incessantly concerning the Indian farm demonstrations that her Instagram account with almost 6,500 followers was quickly restricted.

“I’ll continue to raise my voice for farmers,” she stated. “After all, I’m the daughter of a farmer.”

Together with a few buddies, Ms. Kaur not too long ago volunteered at a mass coronavirus vaccination occasion at a Sikh temple in Selma, making ready meals and directing visitors. The occasion vaccinated 1,000 folks on a single Saturday in March. In accordance with Deep Singh, govt director of the Jakara Motion, a Sikh community-building group, the occasion was particularly aimed toward vaccinating native farming households as “part of our dedication to those most marginalized and vulnerable in the region.”

One automobile on the occasion was painted with “#FarmersProtest” and “I stand with the Farmers,” a sentiment echoed by many occasion volunteers and native Sikhs across the valley.

In Madera, Sohan Samran has proven assist in a extra tangible manner. As a farmer and the proprietor of the Bapu Almond Firm, he shipped almost 7,000 kilos of almonds on to the protesters in India.

The identify of his firm — Bapu — is a time period of endearment in Punjabi for an older male family member, and the enterprise identify is a option to honor the farming custom of his family and tradition. At Bapu farms, the phrase is emblazoned in all places, on stacks of almond containers, on farm tools, and on firm branding. The phrase is a fixed reminder that for a lot of Sikhs in the agricultural world, household and farming go hand in hand.

On a heat Sunday afternoon in Kerman, Simranjit Singh and Sarbjit Sran relaxed inside their house after working the fields at their homestead.

Sitting beneath a portray of an historical Sikh gurdwara, or place of worship, Mr. Singh pointed to his father and stated with a smile, “This is my bapu, right here.”

One of many main tenets of Sikh religion is seva, the precept that kindness, humility and repair to others are what makes an honorable life.

For Mr. Singh and his father, their generational historical past of household farming is an energetic a part of seva, and so they consider that rising crops, tending to the land and offering meals to their group are all acts of service.

“My work as a farmer is more than a job,” Mr. Singh stated. “I feel like it’s a duty, and I’m just trying to do as much seva as I can in the limited time I have here on this planet.”


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