Local strawberries can be subversive

(This column appeared in The Sault Star July 10, 2023)

I picked my own strawberries the other day. 

Boy, did I ever get ripped off,

First, not a single local berry had that huge white core you come to expect with imported strawberries. What’s with that? Are they deformed?

Second, the flavour of these local berries is very, very strong, almost obscenely so. It you enjoy using your imagination when tasting imported berries, or want something that reminds you of those strawberry pop-tarts you enjoyed as a child, you’re going to be disappointed.

Oops. Wrong Strawberry Fields picture

And juicy! These berries practically hosed down my tonsils when I bit into them. Sensory overload or what. 

Blessedly, you can drop an imported strawberry on a white t-shirt and not have to worry about pre-soaking. I think thoughtful scientists have genetically engineered them for juicelessness to spare your clothing.

Fourth, I don’t think there was a single Mexican or Central American person picking in the field with me, even though the pay rate (zero) was competitive with their usual wage.

That made me feel a little guilty. By picking my own local berries, I was affecting the livelihood of low-wage-earners from south of the Donald Trump Memorial Wall.

And that got me thinking about how many others I was depriving of part of their livelihood.

Here’s a few more that came to mind:

— growers, sorters and packers in places like California, Florida and the aforementioned Mexico;

— suppliers of water, fertilizers and equipment to the strawberry growers

— plastics companies that make berry containers that won’t biodegrade until eons after I do;

— label designers and manufacturers for the packages;

— truckers to haul berries anywhere between 2,200 and 6,400 kilometres;

— oil workers to extract, refine and ship petroleum products to fuel those trucks;

— truck manufacturers;

— truck stop owners and employees;

— highway builders and maintenance crews; 

— highway patrol officers;

— border officials;

— warehousing companies and their employees;

— those who design, produce and distribute advertising flyers;

— people who maintain grocery store websites;

— grocery store building lessors;

— supermarket owners and employees;

— grocery chain shareholders;

— billionaires like Galen Weston.

Thinking of all the people who would suffer from my selfish act of picking my own strawberries at a field almost close enough to walk to (although probably I wouldn’t have eaten all the berries during the walk home), almost brought a tear to my eye.

I felt sorry even for Galen Weston: didn’t you just love it when he’d come on TV to tell us about things we could do with those wonderful President’s Choice products? Or did you want to return the favour and tell him what he could do with his PC products?

I began to feel so guilty that I went back to the pick-your-own place and told the guy I wanted to return all of the strawberries.

No way, Jose, he said, apparently foolishly mistaking me for a temporary migrant agricultural worker.

“You picked ‘em, you bought ‘em.”

But that’s not strictly true.

I had waddled away from his patch with a whole bellyful of berries that I gobbled up while picking — free of charge.

And I have to say that little pickers’ perk of yours is the berries, local farmer guy.

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