When we arrived in the Bellingham, Washington area we were in the “down to $20. and 1/4 tank of gas” work-search mode. We asked around, check the yellow pages, and the classifieds, and don’t forget hitting the Farmers Markets. Those are always good. We sell jewelry and meet people, but sales, and the work scene was bleak in this area of Washington. Luckily, I found an ad in the paper looking’ for pickers in Lynden. Lynden is a very tight-nit, very Dutch, and an agriculturally driven town in Northern Washington.
You would think blueberries would be a relatively easy fruit to harvest, right?
Actually, it is back-breaking work. If you are a hard worker, and want to make a decent wage you have long 10 to 12 hour days ahead of you. Unless you have an extended family, then you can bring them. When Wayne Johnson(aka: the farmer) hired us to pick his blueberries, he told us some of his pickers would make up to $400. a day.
Never picking before, and not understand the dynamics of the job, put us at a disadvantage. There is a lot to take into account. If your employee(aka: picker) brings his family(this being anyone living in the household from grandma to infant) to the field with him, his intake increases 10 fold. Well, with the lack of the extended family, Donn and I raked in a whopping $93. buckaroos, on our longest day. Yes, that was for both of us. Just so you can comprehend, that is 2 people for 12 hours(24 hours total) @ $3.98 an hour. Or .25 cents a pound @375 pounds.
There are other factors to take into consideration too. #1 weather. If it is wet, you don’t pick. If the berries are even damp they will rot in the flats. Being in Washington you need to watch for rain, and the heavy dew in the morning. #2 pesticides. If they spray, you don’t pick. You have to take a day off after the crop dusters dust your field. Unfortunately, they dust everyday, and just because it is not your field doesn’t mean it isn’t poisoning you. #3 the soil. If the berries hit the ground, they are out. He did not want any berries that had been on the ground. Better safe then sorry, I guess. #4 don’t pull off the green berries. A lot of pickers will rake ALL of the berries off the bush. This really decreases your chances of a second(and maybe a third) pick. These factors could make for loss in wages, and some down days.
I think Wayne found work for us on the down days, not just because we were hard workers, but he liked having us around. Landscaping was a lot of fun, and paid way more than .25 cents a pound.
After a job well done we pose with our tough-guy faces.
We did take a day and go sightseeing. We went to Kulshan(aka: some Canadian guy named it mt. baker) and had some fun. Everyone should get a chance to throw a snowball at strangers in July.
We are always challenging ourselves on our journey. Our time in Bellingham and Lynden were no exception. We have fond memories of pickin’ berries, and landscaping for Wayne Johnson. These are the experiences we will never forget.