I have to confess that when I first heard that the farm I was going to be working on was paid per kilo, I had high hopes for myself. I am a seasoned harvester, having had harvest jobs in corn and cucumbers during my highschool days in Canada. I believed that this experience, combined with me having spent a majority of my childhood picking various fruits for my grandmother that I would be a legend! Not so.he first day at my first farm didn’t go quite as planned. Firstly, there was a mix up in the ride to work (most of these farmers prefer that you have your own lift to work), secondly my friends and I were late because of some interesting directions to the farm a 45 minute drive away, and thirdly, getting paid per kilogram when the season is only just starting led to some surprises at the end of the day.
We sorted out the lifts the evening before work a generous friend offered us a lift. The directions were vague, no address, just some landmarks. Drive past the temple, turn left before the large roundabout, drive over the new highway, through an underpass and look for a green shed. Right… Not as easy as it seems and it took some local construction workers to sort out what was meant by the temple (there were 2).
The biggest disappointment came when we discovered how little you could make getting paid per kilo. The farmer outfitted us with a bucket and some spares. The bottom bucket had a strap which we needed to tie around our waist so we could collect the blue berries off the bushes. We were then directed to pick up red trays, which would each hold 12 punnets.The farmer then brought us to a row of bushes where we were then shown the ‘proper’ picking technique. Here’s a hint, each farm has its own ‘proper’ technique. This particular farmer likes the plucking method. Get two hands in the bushes, no matter that there are thorns and spiders all over the place, and pluck those blueberries as fast as you can. Because the faster you fill that bucket, the faster you are able to make money.
Once you got the technique down, picking becomes fairly easy and moving down the rows with your buckets and tray becomes less burdensome. Then you realize that you could just leave the tray at the top of the hill, and set the buckets down in the shade while you finish the row and collect them on the way to the weigh station.Filling buckets could be misleading. It can take 2 or 3 buckets to fill a tray depending on the size of the berries. It was a little disheartening to see how long it took us to finish a row, fill the bucket, and make a decent weight. Keep in mind that putting in red berries, ripped berries, or berries with stems still attached slows you down. None of those things could be packed away into the truck where all the trays full of delicious blueberries were kept as they were picked and made ready for sale to a packer. So if you happened to not know that stems couldn’t go in your bucket (like me on my first day), you’d end up spending a bit of time ridding your picked berries of stems, essentially picking them for a second time. Whoops! The responsibility to ensure that the weights are marked down correctly in the book is on you. The farmer was paying $4/kilo. Good money.
Except when the berries are small, and the trees are not fruitful, and it’s your first day so you’re not exactly the legend you thought you would be. The farm did have its ups! Including picking on an incline so steep I somersaulted down the hill with my bucket of berries (no berries were hurt in the process), and at times being able to catch a glimpse of the ocean only a few kilometres away. Such is life. The experience, the laughs and the determination to find a Fruit Picking farm that paid per hour were all worth it. As was knowing that we were coming home to this!