Monday, June 23, 2014
Why Are There Not Enough Pickers To Pick Skagit Valley Strawberries?
A couple months ago, after I learned about the problems Skagit Valley berry growers were having getting their crops picked. I blogged about it in The End Of A Skagit Valley Sakuma Strawberry Legacy.
On Facebook I have been following the berry picking woes of Ole & Sven, currently not having enough pickers to pick their strawberries, resulting in tons upon tons of berries rotting in the field.
When I was a kid, growing up in the Skagit Valley, when school let out for Summer most of the Valley's school kids went to work picking berries.
We got paid 75 cents per flat of strawberries picked. I remember berry picking as both hard work and a lot of fun. With a party at the end of the season after which we got our paychecks.
I was more than a little shocked to recently learn that the current amount paid for picking a flat of strawberries is $20.
Wow. I assume this to be true due to the fact that I saw no one claim otherwise.
The most flats I ever picked in a single day, back during my berry picking career, was 29, at a field we called El Rancho.
29 flats times $20 is $580.
If this really is the case, that this much is being paid to pick a flat of strawberries, why are there berries rotting in the fields?
I don't understand.
Are kids no longer allowed to pick?
Back when I was a picker we co-picked with migrant workers, most of whom migrated from Mexico, following the crops across the west. Over the years many of the Mexican migrants decided to remain in the Skagit Valley, which is why the Skagit Valley has such a large population of Mexican descent, good Mexican restaurants and celebrates Cinco de Mayo.
I don't remember at what point in time the migrant camps disappeared from the Skagit Valley. Did the United Farm Workers movement result in better pay for working the California fields so there was no longer a motivation to travel north to Washington?
I have no idea.
Surely the people who live in the Skagit Valley know the berry growers are having a picking problem? Why aren't the people helping out?
This past weekend the town I grew up in, Burlington, had its annual Berry Dairy Days celebration. Berry Dairy Days was always a big deal for me and my siblings, partly due to mom and dad making us cool floats for the Berry Dairy Days Parade. And partly due to the fact that the carnival was located a block from our house.
What with this past weekend being the Berry Dairy Days celebration I am perplexed as to what there is to celebrate, what with tons of berries going to waste.
Is free strawberry shortcake after the parade still part of Berry Dairy Days? My best guess would be no.