The Reader’s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.
Sure, your aunt may say she made that Thanksgiving pumpkin pie all on her own, but how much does she know about the people who picked and packed the pumpkins before the can of pie filling entered her kitchen? In the 2006 Reader article “Hecho en Illinois,” Linda Lutton and Catrin Einhorn explored Morton, Illinois, which at the time produced as much as 90 percent of all canned pumpkin consumed in the United States. And the majority of those who made it possible traveled from a small town in Michoacan, Mexico.
The Nestle USA plant in Morton produces Libby’s Pumpkin using proprietary seeds to produce pumpkins with more meat, fewer seeds, less water.
Inside the factory, somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of the seasonal workers come from tiny La Soledad. But this is not a story about illegal immigrants. Workers here have green cards and some are even American citizens. This is the tale of two towns separated by 2,000 miles and an increasingly tense border that are dependent on each other, though one of them barely knows the other exists.
By the end of the season, workers took at least $400,000 back to La Soledad to invest in building churches, purchasing ambulances, paving the streets, and more. The workers, Lutton and Einhorn write, have specific sayings to praise the new additions to their town each year: “Thanks to God and Chicago. Thanks to God and Peoria. Thanks to God and Nestle.”