Friday, August 03, 2007

A Visit to The Berry Farm

My oldest sister Wisten & her husband, Glenn, have a berry farm and plant nursery in southwest Washington.

Glenn's mom & dad moved to their farm in 1933. He helped them plant the original blueberry field beside their house in fall 1944/winter 1945; Can you believe that this field is still in production? Including the original field, they now have 25 acres in blueberries.

The season, over-all, extends from 4th July to mid Sept. A max-day's harvest might be 15,000 - 20,000 pounds! They used to harvest it all by "hand" pickers - people from all over the area would come to work for them in the summers, they actually ran a bus from the outlying area to bring pickers to the fields.

Including me - Well, I didn't ride the bus, I got to stay with Wisten & Glenn. It was terribly exciting for a young girl from a wheat farm - my first year must have been when I was about 12 or 13, because Chris (also known as Parker's daddy ) hadn't been born yet.

At that time, they still had a field of raspberries for commercial picking. But my tenure as a berry picker was pretty short - my row of raspberries ripened so fast behind me (ok, so I was pretttttyyy slooooowwwww) that the beginning of the row was ready to pick again before I finished the other end. (I'm sure you get the picture...) So Wisten found "other things" for me to do that summer - I helped around the house, etc. But, I continued to work summers for my sister through out high school and college - by that time, I helped take care of the boys and helped out in the retail shed.

Now days, due to state labor laws kids under the age of 12 are not allowed to pick and, in my opinion, (and this is purely editorial) the general lazyness of the American public (picking berries is hard, hot dusty work - you can make it pay if you work hard, but most people don't want to do that kind of work any more), they have begun to harvest most of their berries by machine, - that's what this contraption on the right is.

They center the row on the machine and the fingers shake the berries off into these tubs.

They actually have been using machines to harvest berries since the late '60's - working on the "belt" was one thing that I wasn't too bad at - how much trouble can you get into standing in one place picking green berries out of blue ones?

At that time the berries processed by machine were for the packing house - mostly frozen, I think -

Now, even their fresh market berries are processed by machine, then packed into the plastic "clam shell" packages that you see in the grocery store. They have "fresh market" business partner in the Seattle area and they sell a lot to customers off the farm. They had customers who would "make a day of it", driving over White's Pass from Yakima to pick up 15 or 20 pounds (or more) of berries - One of the most fun things for me was remembering these customers from year to year - (my true start in customer service!)

It was way too short a visit - less than an hour, because we had to head home - about a 4 hour drive - but "I have been thinking" (which the Shepherd says is a very dangerous thing) ever since that it would be fun to do a blog with JUST blueberry things on it - recipes - what ever I find (and there is a LOT about blueberries to be found) - so TA DA - Announcing my new fledgling blog!! Something Borrowed, Something Blueberry -
The "borrowed" part is that most of the recipes that I will post will be be from other sources - notated, of course - but I'd like to make it a really fun resource for anyone interested in blueberries - the "wonder" fruit - the newest thing I've read is that they help keep you from getting alzheimers disease -

So there you go - hope you enjoyed this brief visit to the farm and into my past - have a great weekend!


Karen Jo said...

That was a very interesting post. I think it's a shame that they can't find hand-pickers any more and that the kids aren't allowed to help out, but that seems to be the way the world is going. I'll keep your blueberry blog in mind.

Thank you for reading my blog every day. I really appreciate it.

Quail Hill Knits said...

I love blueberries but i had never really thought about all the work it takes to move them from the farm to the table. Your "tour" of the process was very interesting and informative. Thanks!

Kathy L. said...

How interesting, Tina! I know what you mean about most Americans...they really don't know where their food comes from, or home much work it really is to produce foods.

Needless to say, I'm sure the readers of your new blog will be grateful for the recipes and stories! I know I will!

Leigh said...

Great post. Our next door neighbor in North Carolina used to get lots of blueberries and always shared them with us. After we'd eaten our fill, I'd dehydrate the rest. Of course, they were always better fresh.

Sharon said...

Who could have known?! Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading it - a berry nice post~

Benjamin Fuzz said...

i'll head over to your new blog in just a minute. it gets so just one blog isn't enough...i've experienced that, too.

you know, until i had fresh blueberries, i didn't like them much...they're kind of tasteless. fresh ones though. mmmmm.

about the second blog thing...i started sweet sixteens and have lost momentum. i'll get that one going eventually. i wanted to start a third blog--one that's not more in touch with my human life--and then realized that there's stuff i wouldn't want a few people stumbling on. kind of a bummer, because for the most part, i like to have company on my life journey...and blogging gives that. sigh... lol

ben and lucy say 'hi auntie tina!'