Getting their kicks: Nourse Farm workers savor taste of home on soccer field in Whately

  • Immigrant farm workers Cesar Ordaz of Whately, left, and Andres Morales of Springfield play soccer this summer on property at Nourse Farms in Whately. Nearly 60 of the workers participate in informal team games during their lunch breaks and after work. Gazette Staff/SARAH CROSBY

  • Immigrant farm workers David Chaj of Springfield, left, Cesar Ordaz of Whately and Simon Diaz of Springfield play soccer July 14 on property at Nourse Farms in Whately. Nearly 60 of the workers participate in informal team games during their lunch breaks and after work. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff SARAH CROSBY

  • An immigrant farm worker returns to the fields at Nourse Farms after playing an informal game of soccer Aug. 9 during her lunch break at the Whately farm. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff SARAH CROSBY

  • Immigrant farm workers including Simon Diaz of Springfield, center, play soccer during their lunch break Monday on property at Nourse Farms in Whately. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Soccer cleats are shown resting Aug. 5 at Nourse Farms in Whately, where immigrant farm workers participate in informal team games during their lunch breaks and after work. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff SARAH CROSBY

  • Immigrant farm workers Andres Morales, front, and Angel Rios, both of Springfield, react after colliding while playing soccer Aug. 5 on property at Nourse Farms in Whately. Nearly 60 of the workers participate in informal team games during their lunch breaks and after work. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff SARAH CROSBY

For The Recorder
Published: 8/10/2016 8:28:54 PM

WHATELY — Instead of taking shelter from the midday sun, field workers at Nourse Farm toss aside their straw sombreros for a noontime game of fútbol.

Many of the workers start their day in the fields between 6 and 7 a.m., and so what little appetite they have, they satisfy around 9:30 a.m.

“You work in this heat and you don’t want to eat anything,” says Luis Ordaz, smiling.

What the workers are hungry for, however, is the game.

“We love to play,” says Ordaz, 32, a native of Mexico who lives in Whately and works year-round at the farm. “Some of these guys even play on Sunday.”

Ordaz, who has worked at the farm since 2003, recalls how he and his co-workers would play on the lawn before working with owner Tim Nourse to make a proper field in 2008. Nourse says that workers found high rents in searches for playing space, so “this arrangement made more sense.”

Now, the workers play during lunch and sporadically after work, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays. Ordaz says many of the workers who play here are from Mexico and Guatemala. They live in Springfield, says Ordaz of many of his colleagues. Some get laid off over the winter.

“In our countries, everything is about soccer,” says Ordaz.

On most days, you can find the workers on the lawn in front of Nourse Farm’s main building on River Road. Sometimes, however, they’re too tired to play, or as was the case with last month’s strawberry season, they’re too busy. After the drowning of their colleague, Wilver Perez, of Guatemala, last month, they did not hold the games to honor their late friend.

“He was a good player,” says Ordaz, looking off into the distance. “Some of these guys were there when it happened. It’s life — I still can’t believe it.”

Life goes on, a co-worker agrees.

“It’s sad,” says Juan Hernandez, 24, of Springfield in Spanish. “But there’s nothing we can do.”

Shouts of “dale, dale!” and “mételo, mételo!” — “pass it” and “shoot it” in English — bounce around the field. Many of the workers play without shoes.

“Your feet hurt at first because they’re not accustomed to it,” says Hernandez in Spanish.

And what about after?

“It still hurts a little,” he concedes.

The goalies make themselves large as the ball heads their way.

“Páralo!” they yell. “Stop it!”

After Angel Rios scores a goal — which he does frequently — he bounds at the top of his toes toward mid-field, arms outstretched and beaming.

“It doesn’t matter that we’re tired,” says Rios, 24, in Spanish, who plays in the midst of and after his nine-hour days in the hot sun. “We love fútbol.”

As Rios squares off during a lunchtime game against Luis Ordaz, their feet move with such speed and grace it seems as if they’re dancing. Grinning wildly, they push the ball toward the other’s goal in bouts so intense they sometimes end up laughing on the ground.

“When you’re working, you’re doing something different,” says Cesar Ordaz, Luis’s brother and another Nourse Farms employee. “This is having fun, when we run and play.”

Casually played games like these, says Luis Ordaz, are commonplace in Latin America, where many grew up dreaming of becoming professional players.

Rios says that he wanted to make a career of it, “but there wasn’t enough money.”

Luis Ordaz, who plays in a Sunday league in Springfield, also recalls childhood dreams of playing professionally.

“I still dream,” he says, though his expectations have changed.

Now, he’s simply happy to be playing after having back surgery last year.

“Maybe I’ll have one day when I can’t play,” he says, adding that he’d like to start coaching. “But maybe I can still enjoy it with my team.”

Playing under the hot sun, says Ordaz, is something they all grew up doing. “Some Americans, they play 20 minutes (in the heat) and that’s it,” says Ordaz. “But we’re more used to it.”

“We’re more accustomed,” agrees Leticia Morales, who sometimes plays during her lunch break in a game with about a dozen other women.

Still, says Ordaz, by the time he’s done with work and play for the day, he’s also done with the sun.

“When I get home I don’t want to do anything outside,” he says, adding that his 4-year-old usually has other plans.

Just as a Friday game wraps up, the sun tucks away for the evening. Asked why they don’t wait until now to start: “They gotta go,” Ordaz says, looking at his watch. “Because they gotta get ready for tomorrow.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.


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