This year much of the Skagit Valley strawberry crop was not picked, even though it was a bumper crop.
Why were the strawberries not picked? Not enough pickers. The reason there were not enough pickers I do not really understand, but it has something to do with a strike against the Sakuma Brothers and their farming operation.
What ever became of the Skagit Valley's school kids picking berries to earn a few bucks during summer vacation? I have yet to get an answer to that question.
Mr. Martin Burwash, he being the chief operator of the Sven & Ole strawberry growing operation tried to verbalize his frustration via a letter to the editor of the Skagit Valley Herald, that being the local newspaper, which apparently had been turning a blind eye to the plight of the valley's farmers.
The Skagit Valley Herald refused to publish Mr. Burwash's letter, so Martin then published the letter himself, on Facebook, along with a paragraph preceding the letter, explaining his frustration with the inability to be heard....
Interesting....during our plight to get a crew to pick our berries, my partner went to both the local radio station and the local newspaper telling them of the problems growers were having finding labor. Neither the radio station or paper saw fit to run any kinds of stories or announcements. Even the community as a whole did nothing to help us. In response I wrote a letter to the editor of the Skagit Valley Herald, taking them, the radio stations and the community as a whole to task. Today the paper called to say they would not print the letter as they categorically deny they were ever informed growers other than the Sakuma Bros were having problems finding pickers. Really?
Here's the banned letter.....
Collateral damage has been defined as “damage to things that are incidental to the intended target.”
In the ongoing dispute between Sakuma Brothers and their workers, we are the “collateral damage.” Who are “we?” We are the other farmers in the valley growing strawberries. “We” are the farmers for which there are no printed signs of support or shiny tractors driving through the streets.
Our fruit also rotted in the fields due to a lack of pickers. Although we had no dispute with our workers, to show support for those on strike, the people we traditionally hire each year were encouraged not to pick. Where normally we hire 45 pickers, we struggled to get 15. Proportionally, 2/3 of our crop was lost.
When you are merely collateral damage, you find there is little interest in your plight. When the local newspaper was told of the labor crisis facing all local growers due to the Sakuma Brothers dispute, they showed no interest in expanding coverage to report the entire story. When asked to announce growers needed pickers in the fields, local radio stations followed suit and showed no concern.
Printed signs or tractors parading up and down local streets and roads are an appreciated show of support. But that is the issue, they are just that, merely a show. Those of us suffering collateral damage did not care about your signs or demonstrations. What was needed was support in form of people willing to help us save our crop.
Collateral damage is impersonal. It is a shake of the head. It is a “that’s too bad you got caught up in this.” But in the end it is a loss suffered for which there is little or no outcry and concern.
I have blogged about the Sakuma Brothers a couple times, once about the lack of pickers issue, once about their Sakuma Brothers Market Stand.
This is all very vexing and perplexing to me......